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Early help and children’s centre consultation given go ahead

Wednesday, 31 May 2016

A consultation on the development of local children’s services, including children’s centres, started on Wednesday 31 May, following support from the Children and Young People’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee.

On Tuesday 30 May the committee debated the matter and backed the Cabinet’s decision to go out to consultation, following a ‘call in’ by the Medway Labour Group.

The six-week consultation will be extensive with opportunities for people to have their say. The council will work closely with a wide range of people including families, carers, schools, health providers and staff.

You will be able to:

  • complete our online survey or collect a paper survey from libraries, community hubs or children's centres
  • attend one of public meetings within the community where you can find out more and give your comments
  • attend each of the 19 children's centres throughout June where consultation officers will be explaining how you can get involved. View dates and times.

Before you have your say, view more information on the consultation, including the full consultation document and detailed information about all of the existing 19 children's centres.

The consultation will close at 5pm on Wednesday 12 July 2017.

Why the service needs to change

During the coming weeks, Medway residents can have their say on how early help and children’s centre support should be provided locally, while keeping in mind that the council has £1.6million less to spend on those types of services going forward. This is why services cannot carry on in their current form.

The decrease in money available for early help and children’s centres comes as a result of changes in central government funding arrangements. The council has no choice but to increase the amount of grant it passes directly to private nursery providers, from 85 per cent to 93 per cent, starting this year under new central government rules - leaving less money for early help and children’s centres.

So now Medway Council, in partnership with the community, must come up with new ways of working, rather than doing nothing and allowing the existing 19 children’s centres to operate on less funding, and consequently provide a poor, unacceptable level of service.

The proposals

The council will welcome ideas and suggestions from residents through the consultation process, about how quality services can be delivered within the budget available. However, as a starting point, the council has set out its initial proposals which includes the creation of four children and family hubs (previously referred to as ‘super hubs’), flexible satellite sites within the community and direct provision at home or in the community.

The children and family hubs would be the key base from which families with young children would be directed to the services they need.

Hubs would have facilities suitable for a range of services for young people and families, but would primarily deliver services for those with more complex needs, whilst also providing a place for social workers to meet families.

In addition to the four children and family hubs, numerous ‘satellite sites’, primarily for those with babies and young children, would provide tailored services based on demand within the community (e.g. parenting groups - ideal for socialising).

The satellite sites could operate from some existing children’s centre sites or be in the form of church or village halls and other community facilities such as leisure centres and youth centres, depending on the type of service. And while some of those sites would not necessarily be permanent facilities, as the services supplied there would reflect changing local demand, there would be many suitable locations identified across Medway so families do not have to travel far for support and parent and baby sessions.

They could also be places to host a range of community health and public health services and supporting the delivery of voluntary sector and community activity.

The council is also proposing further assistance by developing a new offer of direct provision at home or in the community for those who may prefer to receive help services within their own homes.

Councillor statement

Medway Council’s Portfolio Holder for Children’s Services, Cllr Andrew Mackness, said: "I'd urge everyone who has a view on this to submit their comments by completing our online survey. We want to hear from Medway residents, families, schools, staff and health providers to work out how best we can move forward to meet the needs of Medway’s families and children.

"The services must transform if we are to continue to deliver excellent, supportive and safe early years services to families and we need to think of innovative ways to do that. We cannot stand still and watch our services in their current model suffer in the face of a reducing budget and changes in how we must allocate central government funding."