After nearly a year of collective effort by the children's sector - led by the Children and Young People’s Health Policy Influencing Group (HPIG) - NCB and Council for Disabled Children (CDC) are delighted that babies, children and young people will now be an integral part of the Health and Care Bill.
Following the tireless efforts made by HPIG members and engagement with officials at the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and Parliamentarians from both houses, specific commitments have now been made by the government during a debate in the House of Commons in relation to children and the new Integrated Care Systems (ICSs):
- Integrated Care Boards (ICBs) will be required by primary legislation to set out the steps it will take to address the needs of those aged 0-25 in their forward plan;
- NHS England will issue statutory guidance, stating that each ICB must nominate an executive children’s lead, ensuring much-needed leadership for babies, children and young people on every ICB;
- NHS England guidance will require ICB annual reports to include reporting on how they are delivering their safeguarding duty, from April 2023.
- The government will issue bespoke guidance for babies, children and young people, including provisions for Integrated Care Partnership (ICP) strategies to consider child health outcomes and integration of children’s services, as well as providing that the ICP should consult local leadership, as well as children and families themselves.
The government has also acknowledged serious and distinct challenges with sharing relevant information about children and is committed to delivering change in this area. The government will now lay a report before Parliament within a year setting out:
- The government’s policy on a single consistent identifier for children and its approach to improving information sharing more generally;
- How this can be achieved across health, children’s social care, police, and education settings;
- The cross-government actions that will be taken to implement the policies set out in the report.
These commitments will ensure that there will be a focus on babies, children and young people in the new system, as well as within DHSC and NHS England more widely. This is a development we haven’t seen for many years and one that seemed a distant prospect when the Bill team first attended a meeting of HPIG last April to discuss how the Bill would meet the needs of children.
Significant concerns were raised then. However, a year on we, and the children and families we represent, find ourselves in a much better position. While there is, of course, still a long way to go to ensure that these changes are implemented successfully, they represent enormous progress and are a testament to the collective strength of the children’s sector when we work together.
Thanks go to all those who helped make this possible and we look forward to working closely with colleagues across the children’s sector and government on the guidance that will inform effective implementation of the Health and Care Bill.