Consultation on future of early intervention services and children’s centres

The council’s cabinet decided at its September meeting to put three options out for consultation. The focus in the options is on protecting the most vulnerable children from abuse and neglect.

People will be able to give their views until the end of Sunday 10 January 2016.

The council is currently in the process of saving more than £290m between 2010 and 2018. It believes it may have to save up to £50m on top of that as a result of new cuts to the public sector. Within children’s services the council is proposing to target its reduced resources at the children and families who need help most.

The three options are:

Option 1: The council’s preferred option is to create a brand new service for 0-19-year-olds, with a network of eight Children and Family Centres at various locations with the full focus on the most vulnerable and the council ceasing to provide/commission universal services (such as stay and play or open access youth sessions).

There would be fewer buildings but it is important to note that these centres would be the base for significant outreach work to all Oxfordshire communities.

Newly integrated teams would remove the current organisational division between children’s social care’s Family Support Service and the work undertaken by children’s centres and early intervention hubs. They would also link very strongly with local schools and health services.

Going in to the consultation, suggested locations for the Children and Family Centres would be Banbury, Bicester, Witney, Abingdon and Didcot with three centres in Oxford (Barton/Sandhills, Blackbird Leys and Rose Hill/Littlemore areas).

The council would continue working with communities to see how some universal services could continue without council funding, and a new service would be set up to work with partners such as schools, health services and voluntary organisations.

Some universal services funded by other organisations could also be delivered from the new Children and Family Centres – for instance health visiting, child and adolescent mental health services or activities run by the voluntary and community sector.

Option 2: Again there would be eight centres. However the council would continue to provide or commission limited universal services. The resource to do this would come from an increase in caseloads within the Family Support Service and a reduction in the amount of outreach provided by the Family Support Service.

Option 3: Under this option there would only be six centres. This would release £1m per year for grant funding to the voluntary and community sector to deliver services for families across Oxfordshire.

Cross-party review

This consultation follows the findings of a cross-party review of the council's early intervention services, and children’s centres, which was reported to Cabinet in June 2015. That review recommended that a network of Children and Family Centres for 0-19 year-olds be developed targeted to those areas of greatest need, with a good geographical spread of centres.

Under the proposals £8m would be saved from the current overall £16m budget for children’s centres and the Early Intervention Service. The remaining £8m budget for the current children’s centres and early intervention services would be combined with the existing £4m budget for children’s social care’s Family Support Teams, creating a new £12m service.

How people can get involved

The consultation questionnaire is available to complete online at www.oxfordshire.gov.uk/consultation  In addition paper copies will be available at all Children’s Centres and Early Intervention Hubs, as well as at other council buildings including libraries.

Public meetings

We will be holding three open meetings to discuss the proposals, which any member of the public is welcome to attend. 

Details of the meetings are as follows

  • Wednesday 18 November from 6 - 7.30 pm at Kings Centre, Osney Mead, Oxford OX2 0ES
  • Monday 23 November from 6 - 7.30 pm at Didcot Civic Centre, Britwell Road, Didcot, OX11 7JN
  • Monday 30 November from 6 - 7.30 pm at John Paul II Centre, Webb Court, Causeway, Bicester OX26 6AW