Growing up North: Creating better outcomes for children and young people
Author: Cllr Judith Blake, Leeds City Council
Our ambition is for Leeds to be the best city for children and young people to grow up in – a crucial element of Leeds City Council’s work to become the best city in the UK by 2030.
Child Friendly Leeds is the thread that brings together all the work that we are doing to create better outcomes for the 187,000 children and young people that live in our city.
Since Child Friendly Leeds was launched in 2012, we have been building a city-wide effort to put children and young people at the heart of our thinking, planning and action. The child friendly vision is one that the whole city can, and is, uniting behind – one that invites everyone, including individuals, schools, sports clubs, voluntary services, private sector companies, health, the police and the wider public sector to determine and develop their role in improving the lives of children and young people. It puts children at the very heart of the city’s growth strategy.
The voice of the child is at the heart of everything that we do. We engage with children through our voice and influence work, the ‘Have a Voice Council’ for children looked after, and the Care Leaver’s Council to find out their priorities and we act on what they tell us.
Our growing network of ambassadors share our ambition and work with us to improve the lives of children and young people in Leeds. They offer enrichment opportunities for children looked after and care leavers, support activity days for foster families and sponsor prizes and events to celebrate achievements. They also build links with local schools, their staff mentor young people in care through the Independent Visitors Scheme; they promote and support foster care across their workforce and involve children and young people in their organisations.
Over the past six years, we have focused on ensuring that children’s priorities are seen as everyone’s priorities, right across the city. In particular we have asked everyone to obsess on three key issues:
- Reducing the need for children and young people to come into care.
- Improving school attendance
- Reducing the number of young people who are not in education, employment or training (NEET)
Between 2011 and 2017, the number of children looked after in Leeds was safely and appropriately reduced by 13.5%, in contrast to the national trend, where the number increased by 11% over the same period. Primary and secondary school attendance increased by 1.2 percentage points and 1.9 percentage points respectively, and the number of young people not in education employment or training declined by 26%.
Progress has been made, but there is still more to do. The gap in achievement between our most vulnerable and more affluent children is not closing. Research shows that poor attainment at school has a stark impact on adult outcomes including employability, earning potential, long-term health and indeed life expectancy. We want to improve the three ‘As’ for these children and young people – their ‘attendance’ at school, their ability to ‘achieve’ well socially and their academic ‘attainment’.
It is our firm belief that by nurturing and supporting our children today, we’ll have a better city tomorrow. Child Friendly Leeds continues to create the right conditions to help us achieve this.