Editorial: Families whose baby or infant has significant challenges to development and learning are a severely oppressed minority group. Part 3: Can local task forces be a way forward?

local task forces will get effective support, inclusion and connectivity built into the local early support system

I have argued so far in this short 3-part series that we cannot rely on government ministers or public service executives creating the conditions to lessen or end this oppression. Good people they may all be, but there is no real motivation – no compelling reasons why they should bring their focus to this problem.

I have also argued that parents and other family members cannot as a body campaign for change. They are too busy and too tired. They are only in the world of early support for a few years after which they might have to campaign for some sort of decent education for their child.

If an effective top-down approach is a naïve expectation and a bottom-up approach by campaigning parents is unrealistic, then we have to think of something else.

During the first months of this year I wrote a three-part essay about ‘The best way to establish early child and family support in a city, region or country’. I suggested the best way forward could be a combined bottom-up and top-down approach in which parents and practitioners joined together at the grassroots as the ‘bottom-up’ part of the effort.

‘Parents’ can include members of families who have moved on from the early years but want to campaign for change. Practitioners in such a local task force will be enthusiastic for change because they know first-hand what children and families suffer. I have always argued for parent participation in how early support services are run and now we can learn from an American import, co-production.  

A local early support task force will not sweep oppression away in any locality but it could work to chip away at some of the elements of oppression causing children and families to suffer. Some examples:

  • As mentioned above, a task force could help people in a local top-down approach avoid the common pitfalls.
  • There would be information and support for families about money management, benefits and debt.
  • Parent could be helped to negotiate flexible arrangements for employment and study.
  • Working parents could be helped to arrange time out for hospital visits.
  • Nervous new parents could be supported at mother and baby groups, social events could be organised to help families meet each other.
  • Local facilities and events could be shown how to welcome oppressed families.
  • Siblings could be supported in their emotional and social lives, especially those who have become carers.
  • Real stories could be fed into local press and media on a regular basis.
  • Politicians and elected officers could be kept regularly informed about the needs of local families
  • A major concern is that these children and their families should have all the rights, benefits, resources, facilities and services that are available to the generality of local families without discrimination.

I do not need to make a long list here because the parents and practitioners in a local task force will know instinctively what approaches are needed in each oppressive situation and will be fired up with enthusiasm, creativity, urgency and a sense of fairness.

The real long-term benefit of each local task force, as well as supporting individual families, is to make sure this sort of effective support, inclusion and connectivity is built into the local city or region’s early support system.


Peter Limbrick. October 2021

If this idea of local task forces and co-productioin interests you, please get in touch. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

See Part 1 here

See Part 2 here

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