Feedback from families has led to further improvements in the proposals to redesign Children’s Centres across the County that will be debated by Cambridgeshire County Council on 17 October.
2280 people responded to the consultation on proposals published in July, making it the largest response to a Cambridgeshire County Council consultation and one of the largest for a Children’s Centre consultation across the Country.
The council remains heavily committed to early intervention for families, believing it is essential for families to get the right help at the right time and in the right place. The new service is intended to be embedded alongside the Cambridgeshire County Council’s 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 County.
Having reviewed the consultation responses, it is being proposed that more outreach services should be sited in areas across the County, including the southern part of Cambridge City. This change will see £100,000 re-invested in the service. This means reducing the proposed savings from £1 million to £900,000.
If these savings are achieved following a decision at full council, the budget for the new Child and Family Centre services will be more than £4.3million and sit alongside the Early Help services of the council, which has an additional budget of £7.2 million.
The proposals, which will be debated and discussed in Full Council on 17 October, set out ambitious changes for Children’s Centres to create a flexible, targeted and responsive service, meeting the needs of local families, with more money going into frontline work.
Overall, respondents to the survey were favourable to the key ambitions of the survey, with more than 72 per cent supporting or strongly supporting the need for Children’s Centres to widen the age range they cater for, from expectant parents to 19 year olds. 75 per cent of respondents thought that having health services in the same place as Child and Family services as ‘very important’ or ‘good to have’. In addition, the majority of people responding backed the need for Children’s Centre Services to target those families that most needed support.
After listening to feedback from the public and partners, the recommendations to Council include:
- Investing an extra £100,000 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
- A flexible, targeted and focused service that can adapt to a rapidly changing county: including a network of 27 buildings (Child and Family Centres and Zones), in places where they are most required; a substantial outreach service to take provision closer to rural communities; and a comprehensive online offer so that families can access vital information online. The new service design builds in flexibility to enable it to be responsive to the changing demands of a growing population into the future
- Investing more money in frontline services and reducing spending on existing Children’s Centre buildings, which have been in place for many years, but not necessarily in areas of highest population or greatest need. This will include finding new uses for buildings that have lower level of use or poor accessibility issues in relation to space, flexible opening hours or location suitability.
- Moving towards a new ‘Child and Family Centre Offer’, which will support vulnerable families with children from expectant mothers, to babies and toddlers, right through to young adults. This offer will also including accessing support from health colleagues like midwives, health visitors and speech therapists.
As part of the debate at Full Council, Councillors will receive a 3000 strong petition. Councillors will also hear from members of the public who have requested to speak. To view the papers go to Cambridgeshire County Council website - County Council meeting 17/10/2017
Cambridgeshire County Councillor Simon Bywater, Chairman of the Children’s Committee, said: “We believe in these plans and we think they can improve Children’s Centre Services, especially those who really need them. We have listened to local people as part of this consultation and this is we why we are proposing to invest a further £100,000 in our outreach services so we have a flexible, targeted and responsive service. It’s great to see people backing our overall ambitions, but we also recognise at a district level that local people have concerns regarding what might be happening locally to them. Part of this may be that it is hard for some to see what the new service will look like when it is not tied to a building, but I would like to reassure those who use these services that we will looking at all the suggestions to see what we can do. There are strong views on both sides, so it is important to me to make sure we have a full debate about the future of these services at full council and that democracy takes place.”