Plans to focus funding on increased outreach services for children and families in Cambridgeshire, by reducing spend on building maintenance, have been given the go ahead after a full and wide ranging debate by Cambridgeshire County Councillors, with strong views shared on both sides.
Councillors at today's (17 October 2017) Full Council meeting voted 31 to 22, to support proposals, which look to transform Children's Centre services from next April, creating a more flexible, targeted and responsive service delivered from 27 buildings supported by increased outreach services.
View the full response document and associated appendices.
The decision followed a debate on the response to a ten week consultation from 2,280 people - the largest response to a Cambridgeshire County Council consultation and one of the largest for a Children's Centre consultation across the country. Having reviewed the consultation responses, the plans now include more outreach services sited in areas across the county, including the southern part of Cambridge City. This change will see £100,000 of a planned £1m saving re-invested in the service.
Following the change, £4.3m will continue to be spent on the new Child and Family Centre services, complementing Early Help services of the Council, which have an additional budget of £7.2 million.
Cambridgeshire County Councillor Simon Bywater, Chairman of the Children's Committee, said: "We have listened carefully to what people have been saying during the consultation and I want to reassure people we will continue to listen as we begin to implement these proposals. I recognise that feelings have run high during this debate, but I now call on all councillors, partners and communities to come together to help take these plans forward so we can fulfil the ambition of creating a service for more families to get the right help, at the right time and in the right place."
"Today's decision means we remain heavily committed to early intervention for families, something we believe is essential. The new service is intended to be embedded alongside our district early help teams, health and other community services providing a flexible, targeted and responsive service in order to meet the needs of a rapidly changing and growing county."
Overall, respondents to the consultation supported the key ambitions of the proposals - that funding should be directed towards those most in need, that services should be co-located with partners such as health wherever possible, and that the services should be widened to support families with children aged 0 - 19. The changes to the proposals which followed include:
- Investing an extra £100,000 back into outreach services across the county, including the southern parts of Cambridge, after feedback identified potential gaps in provision, not included in the initial proposals
- Resolving issues at Caldecote Children's Centre to ensure wrap-around childcare is protected alongside identifying capacity for additional childcare provision
Cambridgeshire County Councillor Samantha Hoy, Vice Chairman of the Children and Young People Committee, added: "Children's Centre services across the country are changing to help them meet the needs of our most vulnerable families, who remain our top priority. Our plans are very much in line with those of other counties who, like us, also have reducing budgets for a whole range of services where demand continues to grow. The Council is sending a strong message to Government that the long-term underfunding of large rural counties like ours cannot continue as part of our fairdeal4Cambs campaign."
A short film based on the Broadleas Children's Centre in St Ives showing a possible blueprint for this new service can be view on YouTube.