Green light for new service to help children and families earlier

  |  Published: Jan 8th 2018
Warren Whyte, courtesy BCC
Warren Whyte

Today, 8 January 2018, Cabinet gave their seal of approval for a new service that will help children and families more effectively by developing one Early Help service for Buckinghamshire.

Following public consultation in 2017, the council plans to improve services and help families most in need by shifting the focus further from reactive services, to preventative support. By providing more coordinated support to children and families as soon as a problem emerges, the aim is to prevent small problems from getting out of control and help families to become more resilient to deal with problems in the future.

Cabinet agreed that the new service will be created by bringing together council delivered and commissioned  services that currently provide early help support across the county. This will enable the council to support families with all of their problems at the same time; meaning families and children only have to tell their story once.

The new service will:                                                                                                        

  • Be targeted at children and families most in need
  • Support the whole family and work with them to deal with all of their issues together 
  • Be made up of teams of family workers who will work closely with families in the community and with partners
  • Operate from  nine community team bases from where family workers can go out into the community and provide services at locations that best suit the families’ individual situations
  • Support families with a wide variety of issues from money worries, parenting and child behaviour difficulties to mental health issues
  • Work closely with partners for the benefit of the whole family

The service will bring together a range of experience and expertise from across the existing early help services, ensuring teams of multi-skilled family workers who will be able to support families across a wide range of issues and age groups.

The nine community team bases will be close to areas where we know there are more children and families in need. This will enable workers to go out into the community to meet with families in places where they feel most at ease.  The team bases will replace some of our current children’s centres and will be located at:

  • Aylesbury, covering the Quarrendon area
  • Aylesbury Southcourt, Aylesbury College Campus, Oxford Road
  • Aylesbury Elmhurst, Dunsham Lane
  • Buckingham: this team base will be established as part of the options being explored for co-location of a variety of public sector services.
  • Burnham, Minniecroft Road
  • Chesham Newtown, Berkhampstead Road
  • Wycombe Castlefield, Rutland Avenue, Castlefield
  • Wycombe Millbrook, Mill End Road
  • Wycombe Hamilton Road

Seven of these will make use of the existing children’s centre buildings, while Quarrendon and Buckingham areas are currently being assessed for appropriate locations.

Over the next six months discussions with local communities, schools and early years providers will look at how the remaining 28 buildings can be used in the future for the maximum benefit of children, families and communities.

Throughout the consultation in 2017 concerns were raised about the continuation of specific services that take place at children’s centres such as health visitor clinics and speech and language therapy. Many of these services that are provided by partner organisations using children’s centres as a venue, will continue. For example, health visitor clinics which include drop-ins, postnatal well-being groups, post-natal and antenatal clinics, breastfeeding support, and child development reviews will continue to be provided across the county. Specific services such as speech and language support for children, grief counselling and parenting classes will also continue to be delivered by partners or by the new service. Locations for these services may need to change and be delivered from a broader range of community buildings or venues that are close to where people live.

Alongside the development of this new service the council will be improving information, advice and support online for children and families through the Buckinghamshire Family Information Service.

One coordinated Early Help service for Buckinghamshire is planned to have a service budget of £7.125m in comparison to the budget of £10.08m for the current services, saving the council £3.07m over four years. Alongside this, better early help for children and families at the right time should reduce the demand for more costly support from children's services such as social care in the future.

Cabinet member for Children’s Services, Warren Whyte said: “This is a great opportunity to support children and families who need us the most. By going out to where they are, dealing with the whole family and all of their issues and listening to what families need rather than waiting for them to reach a crisis point, I’m confident we can make some real positive changes for families in Buckinghamshire.

I’m particularly keen now for ideas on how we can continue to keep our Children’s Centre buildings in use going forward; whether that is to support increasing Early Years places, schools, other support and services for children, young people and families, or broader community use.”

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