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Moral purpose to beat poverty

Working together: Kevan Collins, director of children's services, on his plan to help the poor

How has Every Child Matters made a difference to Tower Hamlets?

In three ways: it has brought the range of people that work for and with children closer together, at the grassroots, with less bureaucracy; raised the profile and status of children and their needs; and created a shared language and ambition.

What is your biggest challenge?

Creating support for a child and a family that is consistent and reliable. That comes down to having a stable workforce that can cross traditional boundaries.

The second challenge is doing that in a period when resources are getting tighter and the number of young people is growing. We have the youngest population in the country - 25 per cent of our population is under 19, compared with 18 per cent in London as a whole.

How far down the ECM path are you?

We started work on our Children and Young People's Plan in 2005 and published it in April 2006. There is a 10-year programme to transform services for children from that point. There was a honeymoon period when the big structural changes were made, and that is now coming to an end. We're now getting into the grind of dealing with intractable issues in a joined-up way. Here in east London, the 2012 Olympics will be a big milestone. It will be a good time to take stock.

How does the role of director of children's services help?

It means there is a single focal point at which the agenda for children and young people can come together in new ways. For example, we have an integrated team for children with disabilities, where before we would have had separate teams in education, social services and health.

Do you think the divide between professionals will ever be bridged?

It is changing and evolving. We'll never get away from specialists because they have important professional skills, but we will have a common understanding and a common starting point. In Tower Hamlets, 65 per cent of households receive benefits. We know that to help children thrive and move out of poverty we have to work this way. We have a moral purpose that cuts across petty boundaries and bureaucracies.

Kevan Collins is director of children's services for the east London borough of Tower Hamlets.

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