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Transformation of Early Help Services including Children's Centre Services

Medway Council’s Cabinet has considered proposals to consult on schemes to transform its children’s centres and early help services.

Looking after Medway’s children is a key priority for the council. However, changes in government funding arrangements for early years’ provision together with the on-going requirement to reduce the council’s own budgets has meant that the council has had to review its early year's services and look for new and innovative ways to support Medway’s young families.

For the council to continue to meet its statutory responsibilities for early childhood services and reduce inequality, it is proposed that the council refocuses its resources to target children and families in most need. It is also proposed to take the opportunity to better integrate the range of services available to children and families, and provide a model that offers more outreach into the community.

The council needs to make some difficult decisions but will take this as an opportunity to consider current services and deliver them differently.

At its meeting on Tuesday, 9 May the Cabinet discussed how best to move forward and whether to give the go ahead for a public consultation. Members agreed to consult on the recommended option outlined below:

The creation of four ‘super hub’ centres in each of the four children’s services from which integrated children’s centres and early years help can be provided for the whole of Medway. The hubs would be located in:

1.     Gillingham and Twydall

2.     Luton and Rainham

3.     Strood, Peninsula and Rochester West

4.     Rochester East, Chatham and Walderslade

 

The four areas have been identified to reflect local need and demand for services. It is much too early to earmark any potential venues, but each would have large enough premises to allow for a range of family and group activities. It is proposed that these centres would combine children’s centre services for 0-5-year-olds, with early help teams who work with families and children who are aged five and upwards. This means families would benefit from a whole host of services under one roof. Each ‘super hub’ would also serve a wider area by operating as a base for outreach work – taking services to individual families.

At Full Council on April 17th, Cllr Andrew Mackness committed to there being a children’s centre service at Wayfield and would take the opportunity to consider feedback from a consultation to determine other locations in Medway.

 

Supporting children and families

While staffing levels will reduce with the creation of four large hubs, as opposed to the current 19 small ones, there would be a wide range of expertise available at each centre. There would be family support workers, an early help coordinator, youth staff, an early help/schools social worker, parenting workers, child development practitioners, management and administrative support and CAMHS and police representatives. Health partners who deliver services within the current children’s centres would have the option of discussing the on-going provision of services with schools through the current sites and/or offering services from the four ‘super hubs’. This will mean that staff from a range of agencies will work with children and families in need of support in a more joined up way, ensuring better targeted help is offered early on.

The council would cease to incur costs associated with space currently used as children’s centres within schools and academies, and they would be gifted back to schools encouraging them to support the work of the ‘super hubs’ and providing additional education space.

Also being proposed for consultation is the condensing of the early year's service, focusing on statutory early education and childcare duty, which would remain outside the area hub teams and continue to be based at the council’s Gun Wharf offices.

 

Welfare of residents remains top priority

Medway Council’s Portfolio Holder for Children’s Services Cllr Andrew Mackness said: “This is all about looking at what we have and thinking innovatively about how we can transform the service we already offer for families and young people in Medway.

“The welfare of children and families in Medway and helping them realise their potential remains a top priority for the council and we are committed to finding a different but effective way of continuing to provide good early years services for Medway families.

“The option being recommended for consultation would allow us to continue to deliver quality children’s services with a particular focus on those most in need.”

The consultation will run for six weeks.  Further details will be provided shortly.

View the Cabinet paper