Eighteen locations for new children and families service with £1m to help communities keep yet more

A £2m boost to the future provision of children’s services in Oxfordshire has been agreed by the county council’s cabinet with a further £1m of one-off funding set to help communities keep yet more of the current children’s centres network open.

The plans build on the brand new service for 0-19 year olds agreed by the council’s cabinet in February and deliver services from 18 locations with strengthened outreach services – as opposed to the eight originally proposed

The new £14m service includes £2m of additional money agreed by county councillors in February and would provide a safe, effective and co-ordinated system that targets resources on protecting the most vulnerable families - and works hand-in-hand with schools, health services, voluntary and community groups.

By combining children’s social care and early intervention in one seamless service, it represents a completely fresh approach to delivering services for children, young people and their families at a time of rising demand and reduced Government funding.

The new 0-19 service in numbers

  • Eight Children and Family Centres: The council has agreed to base the new service around eight Children and Family Centres at Banbury, Bicester, Witney, Abingdon, Didcot and three locations in Oxford (Barton, Rose Hill and Blackbird Leys), with significant outreach to all parts of the county, targeted group sessions and some open access sessions.

  • Two Shared Locality Bases: There will also now be two “Shared Locality Bases” from which the new service would offer support and group programmes to vulnerable children and their families. These would be located at the current East Oxford Early Intervention Hub/Children’s Centre and in Banbury at the current East Street Children’s Centre.

  • Eight Outreach Centres: Eight of the current children’s centres are to offer child care on the same site and the council had already proposed to support the delivery of the child care aspect of their service until April 2017, with a view to helping them be financially self-sufficient from this time. These eight locations would also be Outreach Centres for the work of the new Children and Families Service and will host some open access sessions.

  • Forty-three libraries: The council is looking at ways of developing open access stay and play sessions at its network of 43 libraries to add yet more to the geographical spread of the service.

  • More to come: Meanwhile the council continues to have positive and productive discussions with communities about how current children’s centres might be able to continue to operate in different ways and via different funding streams in the future. In February 2016, the county council agreed to create a pump priming fund of £1m. This was to assist community groups to develop proposals for Children’s Centres that will not receive longer term funding from the council. A cross-party group of councillors has been established and community groups will be invited to submit business plans to this group.

Reducing the impact of the savings

Councillor Melinda Tilley, Oxfordshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Children, Education and Families said: “We want to reduce the impact of the savings we are having to make. This is an improved offer on our original proposal. It significantly increases the reach and power of our new model.

“We will be able to reach more deeply and widely in to communities than would have been the case without the extra £2m agreed by council in February. Our ability to reach out to families and children on the edge of care will also now be significantly enhanced.

Legal and moral responsibility to the most vulnerable

Councillor Tilley added: “We know that people value the current arrangements and we are glad to be able to extend those until next Spring. However the inescapable reality remains that the council is in the midst of saving £361m across all services, not just children’s service, from 2010 to 2020. That can never be forgotten.

“What we are proposing is the safest possible system that protects the most vulnerable families – that is our legal and moral responsibility and what the wider Oxfordshire public would expect.

“We have listened to service users and their arguments about the role of universal services at children’s centres and early intervention hubs in helping solve families’ problems at an early stage. That is why we have made improved proposals.

Key elements of new service model agreed in February

  • Services currently provided separately in children’s social care and children’s centres/early intervention hubs will in future be provided seamlessly, meaning there will no longer be a need for children and families to be referred from one service to another.

  • The new Children and Family Centres will deliver support focused on issues including domestic violence, substance misuse and parental mental health as well as school readiness, personal safety and child sexual exploitation awareness. The venues will be in operation from early morning until late evening delivering sessions.

  • As part of the outreach service there will be teams of designated ‘locality workers’ whose specific jobs it will be to advise and support staff who continue to provide universal services to children and families throughout Oxfordshire – such as teachers in schools, health workers and staff in early years settings.

  • Close working with agencies such as schools and the health sector would ensure that children at risk who require support are identified as early as possible and appropriate services are provided to them and their families.

  • Staff in the new service would be based at the Children and Families Centres and will visit families in their home, at school and other locations convenient to the family. Targeted group programmes will also take place at venues other than the eight centres and there will be a mobile bus service bringing services to localities.

Children’s centres and Early Intervention hubs continue until March 2017

Contracts for current children’s centres and early intervention hubs have now been extended until March 2017.

This also gives the council more time to continue working with community groups to develop the best possible local solutions for the continuation of open access services.

Working with communities to continue yet more service

Councillor Tilley added: “The appetite of local people to see these services continue across the county is driving positive discussions to find ways of keeping centres open in an era where council funding is no longer available. Those discussions are proving very productive. The new service does not come in to operation until March 2017 due to the contract extension so we have time for these conversations to bear fruit.”


Notes to editors

You can read the full proposal: A new council for a Better Oxfordshire at: www.betteroxfordshire.org

About the survey 

502 quota controlled interviews of residents aged 16+ were conducted between 5 and 19 February 2017.  To correct for response bias, statistical weighting has been applied to the completed dataset at both a district and county level to ensure that the survey is representative of the entire population aged 16+. 

Overall, the results are statistically reliable to around +/- 5% at the 95% level of confidence. This means that 19 times out of 20 the survey findings will be within 5% points of the result that would have been achieved had everyone in the population been interviewed.

On this basis, whilst the survey identified that overall support in the county is 70%, the actual level of support could be as high as 75% or at the lower end, 65%. 

The survey results for individual districts are subject to wider confidence intervals, but even when taking these into account there remains absolute majority support (with more than 50% agreement) across all districts.

Media enquiries

For all media enquiries about the proposal, please contact:

Emily Reed, Oxfordshire County Council, on 07770 701139 emily.reed@oxfordshire.gov.uk

Patsy Cusworth, South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse District Council on 01235 422400 patsy.cusworth@southandvale.gov.uk