Plan to tackle ‘great problems’ facing West Sussex children

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CHILD sexual exploitation in West Sussex could be ten-times more prevalent than is known and 41 per cent of children are not ready for school by the age of five.

Self-harm hospital admissions of young people rose by 268 per cent between 2013 and 2014 and most vulnerable people do not successfully move into post-16 education.

These are just some of the issues organisations across the county hope to solve as part of a new plan.

“This plan is our statement of shared ambitions for how we believe we can make a positive and significant difference to the life chances and experiences of children, young people and families in West Sussex,” states West Sussex County Council’s Families Strategic Plan.

The plan sets a five-year vision, proposing a range of measures to tackle headline issues.

In its draft stages, councils across the county are in the process of lending their support to the pledges. The authorities will work alongside the area’s clinical commissioning groups, schools and related organisations throughout the project.

At its heart are a set of ‘wicked issues’, focusing on education, health and wellbeing, which form the basis of the action plan.

According to the report, five per cent of young people aged 16-18 are not engaged in education, employment or training, while 15 per cent do not know what they want to do with their lives.

Officials hope to improve upon the number of students achieving five A* to C grades, recorded at 57.6 per cent in October 2010.

A total of 54 young people have been identified as being at medium or high risk of child sexual exploitation as of April but the county council believes the problem could be as much as ten times worse.

Adur and Worthing councillors were shocked by the suggestion 41 per cent of children were not ready for school by the age of four or five.

Worthing Borough Council leader Dan Humphreys, who shared a story about a youth group in Durrington, around three miles from Worthing seafront, said: “Sometimes you hear stories that really stop you in your tracks that make you realise there are great problems.

“Phoenix Youth Group in Durrington took a minibus full of kids between the age of seven and 12 to the beach. Over half of the kids had never seen the sea. What else are they missing out on?”

The plan sets out a series of pilots and initiatives to tackle the headline issues.

Consultations with health providers and children and family centres will take place next year to identify what services can be delivered.

A new education model, setting up local improvement boards, is being trialled in Crawley during the 2015/16 academic year.

The final details of the plan will be drawn up in the new year, following the completion of consultation work.

To find out more, visit the county council’s dedicated page.