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Podcast: Together for Childhood in Stoke

Last updated: 14 Oct 2019 Topics: Podcast

What part do the local authority, community and other partners play in Together for Childhood?

In one of our first episodes, we invited Jon Brown to give us an overview of our Together for Childhood initiative – a project which addresses how agencies and organisation work together to prevent child abuse and support children and their families.  

This week we visited one of the four sites delivering Together for Childhood and met with Leila Canay, one of Stoke’s Children Services Practitioners. The Stoke site is one out of two sites that has a focus on preventing child sexual abuse.

Listen to the episode for more on:

  • what evaluation activities are currently being run in Stoke
  • how the initiative has invited change and developed over time working with the community and partners
  • establishing professional and community partnerships, including embracing collaboration and co-creation
  • how young people can be involved in influencing and informing Together for Childhood in their local area.

Play our previous episode on Together for Childhood

About the speaker

Leila Canay is a Children’s Services Practitioner at the NSPCC’s Stoke Service Centre and a qualified social worker. She has a background in delivering child sexual abuse services, including Letting the Future In (LTFI) and Turn the Page (TTP). She is currently seconded into the role of Community Engagement Officer for Together for Childhood in Stoke. 

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Podcast transcript

Welcome to NSPCC Learning, a series of podcasts that cover a range of child protection issues to inform, create debate, and tell you all about the work we do to keep children safe. At the heart of every podcast is the child's voice, and how what they tell us, informs the work we do.

Hi and welcome to the latest NSPCC Learning podcast. Our very first podcast back in March focused on the NSPCC’s child abuse and neglect prevention programme, Together for Childhood. In that podcast, we promised to visit some of the Together for Child sites in future episodes and talk in more depth about the work they’re doing.

I travelled to our Stoke Service Centre and had a chat with Leila Canay, a Child Services Practitioner who has been seconded into a Community Engagement Officer role.

Leila talks about the co-development and co-creation aspects of Together for Childhood, the importance of knowledge exchange and what she has learned about embarking on a programme with a strong community engagement element.

Leila discusses the professional partnerships and the breadth of this - so working with the local authority, education and public health for example and community partnerships which amongst others include youth groups and faith groups. Leila also talks about some of the activities that are being run in Together for Childhood Stoke. And finally, as always, we talk about how the voice of the child is at the forefront of Together for Childhood.

If you haven’t listened to the Together for Childhood overview podcast, it would be worth going back and doing so before diving into this one, just to get an understanding of the initiative as a whole. And just one more thing, we did record this podcast at our Stoke Service Centre which is a hive of activity so you might hear a few additional noises like footsteps and phones which I hope isn’t too distracting!

I began by asking Leila why she felt Stoke was a good fit to be one of the four Together for Childhood sites.

As a service centre we've had a really long history of delivering services around child sexual abuse. So, it's what we're known for, it's what we've got a really good depth of knowledge and expertise in and we've built some really good relationships with partners in the area around that work. But I think as well, we had already begun to think about prevention and how we could adapt some of our work and some of our knowledge to reach the prevention side of our work, in terms of some knowledge exchange. So developing training both face-to-face and elearning around problematic and harmful sexual behaviour and how to recognise some of those early signs and how to respond to those at an earlier point to hopefully prevent escalation of behaviours and to safeguard children at an earlier point.

So, how has the whole Together for Childhood initiative changed what you do as a practitioner?

Together for Childhood is following a kind of public health model. Every practitioner will now have a portfolio of primary, secondary and tertiary work. We’re still continuing that direct service delivery that we've historically been involved in and that we're known for. But we're also much more involved with some of the prevention work and collaboration with other services. So, we're no longer meeting our partners or families and sort of saying, “right this is our work, this is what we do, this is our criteria and that's that”. It's very much what do we need as a partnership to achieve and to create together and to collaborate on? It's very different in some ways and it's similar in others in that it all stems from that existing knowledge base and expertise.

And so how has that felt for you as a practitioner? Have you embraced that? Has this been positive for you?

For me personally it's been really positive. I like a challenge. I like change. I really believe in the prevention agenda. I love delivering direct work. That kind of will always be at the heart of what I love to do. But I also love to see the extended reach and what else can be achieved when we're working together.

So the first podcast we ever released Leila was on the Together for Childhood initiative - it gave a really good overview. But as one of the sites that has put this into practice, how has it been? Can you talk us through it?

So right from the outset, we wanted to embrace the collaboration and co-creation and ownership approach. And so rather than choosing an area within Stoke that Together for Childhood would be based within, we explored and explained the concept of Together for Childhood to lots of areas within Stoke to see where the interest was.

And from there, came a kind of pitching process where areas were expressing how able they felt they were to receive Together for Childhood and to be part of that partnership and that collaboration. And I think that was really helpful from the outset because that meant that the community felt that this wasn't something that was coming to their area because their area had a particular difficulty or problem in relation to child sexual abuse, but rather that it was something they could be proud of because they'd achieved and they’ve succeeded in securing Together for Childhood in this area. And so, we had lots of buy in and motivation right from the outset to be involved with Together for Childhood.

You talked about the particular areas that you're working with. You've got Chell Heath, Chell and Fegg Hayes. Is there any particular reason why those three areas were chosen?

Those three areas work very closely together already and have a structure that those communities work within through a big local trust. So they're very organised, they're very motivated. There's already a really good structure there that we could work within and they were so motivated and enthusiastic to have Together for Childhood as part of their community and just really demonstrated to us their commitment.

How do you feel that this is changing Stoke’s Service Centre’s relationship with the local authority, the community and other partners that are involved in Together for Childhood?

We've always had links and relationships with our partner agencies and the local authority. But I think that's just extended now and we're not just linking in terms of this is what our delivery is or where we've got particular cases that we're working with. We're working alongside, creating new things and that's quite exciting. And obviously for the local authority, it means that they are being supported to achieve their objectives that are aligned with Together for Childhood quite nicely and quite naturally anyway.

Great. And I know you can't speak directly for the local authority or the other partners, but from your experience working with them and your perception, have they embraced this? Does this feel like a positive thing for you all?

For me personally, working at a local level, our colleagues within the local authority have embraced this massively and have been really open to that collaborative working and co-creation and it's been a really positive experience.

Great. So, I think a future podcast then is probably for us to sit down with our community partners, with the local authority and have a chat to them about their experience - that would be really worthwhile.

Can we talk about the Together for Childhood brand and how that's developed since you've begun working with the community and the partners? How has the identity kind of developed since the beginning?

I think initially Together for Childhood, as a concept, was something that everyone was quite interested in and motivated to be part of and to achieve the overall aim. But what that meant in practical terms was a little bit more unclear because of the nature of the co-creation and collaboration and not going to our partners and community with a ready-made plan and list of activities.

So, that's exciting but that can also be challenging at the beginning. I think as time has gone on and we've developed our relationships and we've worked on what Together for Childhood will actually mean in Chell Heath, Chell and Fegg Hayes, it's become a lot more tangible. We've now got a plan. We've got activities underway. There's real meaning to what Together for Childhood actually is and can be in the future within that area.

We've also recently developed the design in terms of the brand for Together for Childhood and I think that will help in terms of its identity as well. And that has been informed with the community and partners and has got really localised feel.

For anyone listening to this thinking about embarking on an initiative that's co-creation and collaboration, what kind of advice would you give?

Specifically around community engagement - what I've learned is the time that it takes to build those initial relationships, to really understand that community, what's already happening and what's brilliant about that community, as well as understanding where some of the gaps and needs and opportunities for developing work through Together for Childhood exist.

An understanding around the timeline - when you are looking at collaboration and co-creation, it's not something that's going to happen overnight. It's a process. There's times when you'll feel frustrated because you want something more tangible straight away, but it's having trust in that process and the outcome and the benefits of co-creation and collaboration.

Something else that's been really important as part of this process is really valuing the knowledge and experience of all of our partners, community and professional partners and understanding that they have a lot to bring to the table and really starting with a mutual respect and valuing of each other.

So Leila, can we talk about some of the activities that are being run here as a Together for Childhood site and then, obviously within that, the communities and the professional partnerships that you're working with to create those activities and run them?

Yeah I can certainly give examples of some of the activities that are underway as part of Together for Childhood Stoke at the moment.

We have undertaken a PANTS campaign which we have as NSPCC delivered nationwide already. The way that we've adapted that in light of Together for Childhood is to organise local PANTS Champions from local resident’s associations, community and voluntary groups, faith organisations, who have committed to take that message further and to deliver within the groups and the settings that they deliver within.

Another activity is working alongside community and the local authorities' early intervention/early help strategy, to support their objectives in terms of increasing the community's involvement within early help plans and strategies. So, that has involved starting to develop early help training, adapted specifically for community, rather than professionals and identifying 'community early help champions' who can promote the early help process and offer some support within their local area. And also start to think about how we increasingly make use of the resources and facilities and services that are delivered by community and voluntary services and incorporate them within early help plans.

There's also a really great activity at the outset at the moment which is a really great example of collaborative working where a couple of our practitioners are working alongside YOS, the Local Authorities' Children's Services, Education, Public Health, around promoting an understanding of problematic sexual behaviour but also developing a package to support those working with children to respond to those behaviours. Because typically those behaviours don't reach a threshold that warrant specialist services or child protection responses. But in terms of prevention, they are the children that we need to be responding to and looking to, to prevent their own harm in terms of what safeguarding needs are underlying that behaviour, as well as preventing further harm to other children.

We do have Evaluation Officers attached to Together for Childhood. So Together for Childhood activities will often have an evaluation resource and activities attached to them which is really helpful for Together for Childhood but also adds valued for the local authority.

Going back to the evaluation side of things Leila, can you talk to me a little bit more about that? About the process and what's going on?

There'll be a range of evaluation activities linked to specific things that are taking place as part of Together for Childhood.

One example of an evaluation activity that's quite useful is our use of 'knowledge, attitudes and behaviours surveys' with community. There's been, at the moment, 150 surveys completed by community members and that's been supported by community groups, schools and faith organisations helping us get those completed.

And that will look at what do people understand at the moment about child sexual abuse and about prevention? What actions would they currently take to support prevention of child sexual abuse? And what barriers there might be to them taking action?

And the outcome of that will help in two ways. So that will help inform our plan going forward because it will inform us of what some of the barriers are and help us think about how we might overcome those barriers. What people already know - whether there's any misconceptions that we can help with. So just informing our plan, but also it means that in 18 months/two years we can go back to that community where activities have taken place and see what sort of impact they've had on knowledge, attitude and behaviours.

Can we talk about any training that is being provided through the Together for Childhood initiative?

As an example, we have a training package that's been developed called 'Recognise and Respond'. This was developed in response to the listening and understanding exercise that we completed right at the beginning of our engagement with the community, when they were quite strongly telling us that the safeguarding information and training that they had accessed previously, really wasn't necessarily relevant or delivered in a way that was accessible for them as community, rather than professionals.

And so we worked with a number of community members to adapt some training and develop some new information as part of a training package, as I say, called 'Recognise and Respond' aimed at those who have contact with children, which is all of us, but not necessarily working, whether that's a voluntarily or in a paid capacity with children. And so. the first of those has been delivered successfully and the feedback is that that's really helpful and very accessible in terms of its content.

And what insights has that given you as a practitioner and how to look at training from another person's point of view and take them to create the package or training exercise that really delivers what it says it's supposed to?

I think it's so important because we as professionals may have an assumption that there's some knowns already that you know we take for granted and that might not always be the case. We might assume that particular topics are what people want to hear about and without really understanding what it is that people are finding difficult in the training that's already around, as well as what they value in training that's already around and what it is within their own context that would be helpful to have information about. We don't really know that what we're developing is right.

So in this whole initiative Leila, how are we making sure that we are including the child's voice?

In lots of different ways. Part of that is our understanding and our, kind of, years of experience and feedback and conversations that we've had with children that we've worked directly with. We bring that into Together for Childhood.

It's also starting to engage with young people within our Together for Childhood geographical area. At the moment, through schools, so starting to explain what Together for Childhood is, exploring how young people and children are going be involved in influencing and informing Together for Childhood in their local area and also being informed by community leaders who are working in youth groups and other activities directly with children and holiday clubs and their understanding of what they are being told by the children that they're involved with.

Leila, thanks so much for talking to us about Together for Childhood in Stoke.

You're welcome, lovely to speak to you, thanks.


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