Every Child Matters is a UK government initiative for England and Wales, that was launched in 2003 and represented the government’s recognition of the value of investing in prevention and early intervention.
Its scope covers children and young adults up to the age of 19, or 24 for those with disabilities.
The initiative was very well received by those organizations that work with children and has been described as a “sea change” to the children and families agenda. Lisa Payne, principal policy officer for the National Children’s Bureau, said of it: “The ambitions were amazing, the investment was unprecedented, and the prioritisation of children unmatched in my memory.”
Helen Dent, chief executive of Family Action, said the initiative made very positive moves toward a more “joined-up thinking about child wellbeing”.
It has been hailed as one of the 21st century’s most important policy initiative and development programmes in relation to children and children’s services.
Enforced by the Children Act 2004, Every Child Matters took a radically new approach to improving the wellbeing of children from birth. It was designed to end the disjointed services that failed to protect eight-year-old Victoria Climbié, and aimed to achieve better outcomes for all children by making organisations that provide services to children work better together.
Its main aims are for every child, whatever their background or circumstances, to have the support they need to:
- Be healthy
- Stay safe
- Enjoy and achieve
- Make a positive contribution
- Achieve economic well-being
A helpful acronym to remember the 5 parts is SHEEP – Every child shall be: Safe, Healthy, Enjoy/Achieve, Economic, Positive contribution.
Each of these aims is subject to a detailed framework whereby multi-agency partnerships work together to achieve the objectives of the initiative.
The agencies in partnership may include children’s centres, early years, schools, children’s social work services, primary and secondary health services, playwork, and Child and Adolescent Mental Health services.
Criticism has been raised in the past that professionals have failed to understand each other’s roles or to work together effectively in a multi-disciplinary manner. This has resulted in a sub-standard level of service for children and families.
It is one of the primary objectives of Every Child Matters to change this, stressing the importance of all professionals working with children being aware of the contribution that could be made by their own and each other’s service and to plan and deliver their work with children and young people accordingly.