‘Closing the Gap’ a holistic approach to building preventative methods to tackle child poverty We welcome the report released by the National Philanthropy Capital (NPC) ‘Closing the Gap’ which has called for a holistic approach to preventing child poverty The key findings closely align with our model of support and it is great to see recognition of the importance of building trusted relationships through a ‘link person’ and having a family-centered, place-based approach We look forward to continuing engagement with NPC and wider stakeholders to make the case for a holistic approach to supporting children and their families The recent report, ‘Closing the Gap - Building Better Child Poverty Prevention Systems’ released by NPC, outlines steps that can be taken to highlight an effective, preventative system to the issue of child poverty. It talks of a systematic problem that requires a systematic response through whole system transformation to prevent child poverty. The key messaging from this report closely aligns with our model here at West London Zone, with a large emphasis on the need for a holistic, collaborative approach from different organisations for a long-term sustainable solution. Key findings from the report include: The importance of trusted relationships and work that is family-centred The report references a ‘link person’ as someone who is ‘able to build strong relationships with parents because they are from the same community, but they are someone with the knowledge and ability to connect parents to resources, services, and support across the system.’ The importance of a whole family approach is necessary to meet both the needs of the child and the needs of the family. At the heart of our model is the role of the Link Worker. They are a trusted adult based in the school of each child we work with, there to guide, champion and support each child, offering them safe spaces to talk and share concerns. They also build trusted relationships with the family around the child. As well as linking the children to our partner activities and programmes, they also help remove barriers that prevent families from accessing wider support. This may be through simply signposting and increasing a parent’s awareness of a service they can access, attending meetings with them or answering questions and alleviating concerns they may have about accessing support. The importance of relational, person-centred support The report talks of the need to be relational, and person-centred. Support to be kind, compassionate and focused on what an individual needs so they can thrive. Our model is centred around a tailored two-year support plan. Designed by Link Workers in collaboration with parents, caregivers and teachers who know the individual child and then delivered along with community partner activities. People want to be heard and understood. Part of a compassionate response is allowing people to inform their own support plan priorities, to express what they want alongside what they need. A tailored two-year plan allows us to deliver this support that is effective and flexible to the strengths and needs of a child. The importance of place-based support The NPC findings showed the need for a place-based method of support and a system that is designed according to local context and need, with local people at the centre. This echoes the priorities of WLZ and our model which aligns public services and community activities at a neighbourhood level, so we can provide timely, joined-up support to children and young people at a tipping point of need. It is through understanding the community, its assets and needs that we can provide this collaborative approach. We were delighted to contribute to a series of workshops last Spring, which formed part of the NPC’s research. At this workshop, we were able to share how our methods are all underpinned by our holistic approach to a child’s needs and crucially builds a relationship with the family to understand specific challenges that exist in the home. We spoke about the difficulties families face accessing support while navigating the current fragmented system and how we help by signposting families in need to services in their areas such as local food banks. Building on the relationships and trust we foster with children and their families, we work to break any stigma down and reframe the support they can receive in a more positive light which encourages them to engage with the help available. It was great to see the work we do at WLZ referenced in the report and the alignment between this report’s findings and our model of support. We look forward to continuing engagement with NPC and stakeholders across the third sector and beyond to highlight the need for a holistic approach to supporting children and families and the importance of building trusted relationships.