Overview and Scrutiny Referral - Council motion on UNICEF child-friendly city status and No Child Left Behind (18th July)
Report of the Chair of Overview and Scrutiny
The Chair of Overview and Scrutiny, Cllr. Payne, introduced the report, which digested the O&S response to the referral from Council on 18th July. He explained that having been requested by Council to investigate the UNICEF child-friendly city offer and how it compared to No Child Left Behind’s present work, the committee had considered a report from Richard Gibson (Head of Communities, Wellbeing and Partnerships) outlining the different possible approaches.
He noted that it was an unusual request of O&S, and all in his time on the committee he could not recall it being asked before to adjudicate on a motion. The committee had asked a wide range of questions about the various schemes and ultimately put forward two recommendations. The first of these concerned No Child Left Behind, and he thanked Cllr. Clucas and the council’s many partners for making this possible. NCLB focused on a very specific group (children living in deprivation in Cheltenham) and fulfilled a sound and important function, so the O&S recommendation was to ring-fence it. He clarified that this meant it should not be constrained, but rather should develop from within, led by experienced partners who understood the job. He was keen to ensure that its impact, organisation and governance were not diluted by another scheme.
He continued by saying that in an ideal world, with greater resources available, the UNICEF scheme would be a welcome addition, especially in terms of giving children and young people a say in the direction of government. However, this was a 3-5 year program, and we did not have the resources to do that at the moment. A change in policy direction was needed at a higher level, and this would be better progressed on a county-wide basis. The situation was changing, and he hoped they could take a more open approach now. Engaging with the county council would enable us to assess their appetite for delivering this scheme. He hoped Members would support the recommendations, which would ensure that both systems remained alive, and the council could potentially pursue the UNICEF system in the future.
The Mayor moved into debate, where Members made the following points:
- The request for county council involvement was suitable, as CBC had done its bit and now needed the county to step up too.
- O&S deserved thanks for taking such a detailed look at the issue, as did Cllr. Clucas for her amendment back in July that sent it to them. UNICEF was undoubtedly a recognised global brand, and it would be good to take this to the county council with their increased scope and platform.
- Cllr. Clucas and the officers involved deserved thanks for their work on NCLB, which worked very hard for the town. Hopefully the Members who also sat on the county council could work together to bring forward a motion on the UNICEF child-friendly approach at the county level.
- The county would soon be hiring a new Executive Director of Children’s Services, and whoever this was could be contacted to see if they could spearhead this.
- NCLB had done great work in addressing poverty and inequality in the town, especially during the pandemic. The Cheltenham Offer, which sought to close the education gap in the town, had then become the Community Agreement and an impressive vehicle for change. Next year’s NCLB awards would be a great event.
- The report had made clear that NCLB and UNICEF child-friendly status were two different mechanisms with different outcomes. The UNICEF status addressed the needs and rights of all children, and what was missing in Cheltenham was a strategy for meaningful consultation with children, like what had been seen recently with the climate emergency. There needed to be evidence of how this was fed into the final policy, in order to keep young people engaged. NCLB was an organic thing which was growing and adapting to challenges, and a clear strategy for consultation would be needed rather than anything ad-hoc. Proposals for a youth council would also ensure that young people’s voices were heard.
- NCLB was unique, and that nowhere else in the country was doing what it did. It was a huge collective effort from individuals, organisations, groups and communities, and the Cheltenham Chamber of Commerce was now an active supporter of the next stage. It was good that the UNICEF proposal would go to the county for consideration, and that NCLB would be ring-fenced. Tracy Brown, Richard Gibson, Jen Tucker and all those who helped make it possible deserved thanks.
The Chair of O&S thanked Members for their positive responses, and agreed with the suggestion that a motion also be raised with the county council. He agreed that there was not currently a mechanism for young people to influence what the council did, and this needed to be addressed if they wished to implement the UNICEF scheme. It was key that young people felt engaged.
The Mayor moved to the vote, where it was:
1. The recommendations from the Overview & Scrutiny Committee be noted;
2. No Child Left Behind be ring-fenced, and not changed or diluted by pursuit of the UNICEF child-friendly approach;
3. An application not be pursued to join the UNICEF initiative, and that the Chair of Overview & Scrutiny write to the County Council to establish whether a cross-county approach can be developed with relation to the child-friendly framework, including greater involvement of children in the decisions that affect them.