Please mind the gap: Who’s responsible for our children’s wellbeing?

Pastoral care is an elusive topic juggled by schools, parents and local authorities. But what if one falls short? Whose responsibility is it to maintain the wellbeing of our children?

With another set of GCSE and A level results propelled into the media, the question of whether children are merely at school to be prepped for exams has reared its head again. Children aged 4-16 across the county are attending a variety of different establishments from state funded, private, religious and the ever-growing academies.

Now there is The Acorn School in Lincoln. Based on Calder Road, it will primarily take senior school pupils who are struggling in mainstream education. Opening its doors for the first time this month (after it met with some disapproval from locals), The Acorn plan to help children and young people mainly on an outreach basis.

This involves going into their school to give them extra support when it’s needed. Schools have received help from said services previously, but at their new site they will be able to take 24 students part-time in order to re-integrate them.

These policies are a step further in pastoral care for the county. Schools have set protocols in an attempt to keep those under their supervision on the right track.

From providing greater one to one time for pupils and creating structured environments, to enlisting care plans and attainment charts, there are a number of methods used to achieve the next generation of well-rounded citizens, many with the help of outside agencies.

Nationally, Louise Casey reported to government last year on the need for a more ‘hands-on’ approach with children and families. This has led to her overseeing the national roll out of the ‘Troubled Families Unit’ (TFU). In turn, we have seen the formation of ‘Families Working Together’ — all receiving cash injections on the basis of projected long-term savings.

Their research believes that by allocating £4,000 for each troubled family the relevant bodies will cumulatively save millions of pounds. All in the belief that in the next few years there will be a massive reduction in spending, fewer referrals and less need for long-term intervention.

The question is, why is this still happening? In the 21st century children in our area are still falling through the gap.

Casey believes that many problems are passed down from generation to generation, but when we strip this back, what do we find time and time again? According to many research organisations, poverty.

The children that are struggling academically, socially, mentally and physically within schools by and large are living below the poverty line.

The roll out of Universal Credit may come as a damaging blow for families in the county. The Joseph Rowntree foundation has published research on the benefit reform and found that unless on a ‘median wage’ of £11.26, a two parent family may struggle.

Even more so for lone parents whom in many situations (due to the drastic drop in UC when working hours are increased), would be no better off working full-time then they would working 10 hours a week. In fact a lone parent family out of work can expect approximately only 60% of monetary funds needed to survive.

With so many families being classed as troubled (approximately 1,370 according to Lincolnshire’s TFU), one has to ask just how much of this stems from welfare reform?

Has central government’s austerity measures pushed everyday families over the edge? Once there, can local initiatives pull our future generation back from the precipice in order to secure our and their future?

It seems lower earners will be stuck in a wage gap with no option for growth, unless they can somehow drastically increase their income.

With this in mind many children and young people are becoming as dispirited as their elders are, which leads to the need for greater intervention in education.

As such, many are fearing that the ‘generation cycle’ continues round again, with no light at the end of the tunnel for parents or their children.