Proposals made on extra £2m of finance for children’s services
Proposals on how to spend an additional £2m to boost future provision of children’s services in Oxfordshire have been set out by the County Council.
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 – much broader than originally proposed.
The new £14m service (including the extra £2m) 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.
Breakdown of proposals for additional £2m:
- Two new “Shared Locality Bases” (£100,000)
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.
An extra £100,000 would enable the council to retain two additional buildings as 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 in Cowley and in Banbury at the current East Street Children’s Centre.
The buildings would not function as additional Children and Family Centres but would provide an extra base for the delivery of services from the main centres in Blackbird Leys and Banbury.
- An enhanced Locality and Community Service (£1m)
A total of £1m of the new funding would be allocated to the Locality and Community Service component of the new service, providing 30 extra staff to work alongside organisations which provide universal services in order to identify vulnerable children before concerns become more serious.
The funding would also enable the service to undertake a “community coordinator” role – supporting communities to maximise the universal services they offer, with a particular focus on developing sustainable services within buildings that were previously children’s 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.
The Rose Hill Littlemore Children’s Centre, Ashurst Way – which is to become a Children and Families Centre – also has child care funding.
The two sites that are now to be upgraded to be Shared Locality Bases, as described above, also have child care funding.
The new service would therefore deliver services in a wider range of locations than originally proposed.
In addition the council is looking at ways of developing open access stay and play sessions at its network of 43 libraries.
- More staff for Family Support teams (£900,000)
A total of £900,000 would be used to provide more staff in the Family Support Service component of the new model. This would enable an increase in preventative support for families whose needs do not meet the threshold for statutory social care. This will significantly boost the ability of the service to work directly with children and their families who may be at risk of needing statutory services in future.
The increase in budget also means that outreach offered to venues across the county can be extended, increasing the availability of programmes in venues other than the Children and Family Centres.
When will decisions be taken?
The council’s cabinet will consider the proposals for the £2m at a meeting on Tuesday, May 24 County Hall with a 2pm start.
Strengthening the new model
Councillor Melinda Tilley, Oxfordshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Children, Education and Families said: “This new money will significantly increase the reach and power of the new model that will come in to effect in April 2017.
“We will be able to reach more deeply 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 would also be significantly enhanced.
“We know that people value the current arrangements and we are glad to be able to extend those until next Spring. However the reality remains that financial pressures and rising demand alone – never mind future savings – would mean having to redesign services at this very point in time. What we are proposing is the safest possible system that protects vulnerable families and links effectively with other agencies. Our priority is keeping children safe and supporting the most vulnerable families.
“We’ve heard strong arguments about the role of universal services at children’s centres and early intervention hubs in helping solve families’ problems at an early stage. We demonstrated we had understood the importance of this by building in some changes to our proposals in response. The extra £2m means yet more enhancements to our new model and we now have more time to plan and prepare for that new model to come in to operation.”
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 children’s centres and early intervention hubs have now been extended until March 2017.
Discussions continue about the future of other children’s centres
Meanwhile the council continues to have 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.
The recent contract extension for existing centres 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.
Councillor Tilley said: “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 continue to bear fruit and I would urge communities to continue working with us on this.”
- The current Early Intervention Service and Children’s Centres services have budgets totalling £16m.
- The new service was originally to contain £8m of this budget plus £4m from the children’s social care family support service which will be integrated in to the new service. It will now also contain the £2m of new funding agreed by council in February.
- The total budget for the new service from April 2017 will therefore be £14m.
- The service would also provide support to young people with Special Education Needs up to the age of 25.
Short explanations of the various key components of the proposed new service
Locality and Community Support Service
This service would provide advice and guidance to universal services, including schools, health services and voluntary and community groups to enable them to support vulnerable children, young people and families. The service would identify emerging needs and safeguarding concerns with localities and be the first point of contact for universal services who have concerns. The service would be organised in to three teams: North, Central and South. This would be a significant preventative service, enabling vulnerable children to be identified and support put in place before concerns escalate.
This service will benefit from £1m of the £2m new funding agreed by council in February.
Family Support Service
The new Family Support Service would integrate the existing Children’s Social Care family support teams with the family support functions currently undertaken in the Early Intervention Service. The service would provide timely support and interventions to vulnerable families, respond to crises within families, support programmes for children and families, co-ordinate services with the local Children and Families Centre and outreach to venues other than Children and Family Centres. The development of an integrated service would increase capacity to support the most vulnerable children and focus resources on children in need to prevent further escalation of their needs.
This service will benefit from £900,000 of the new funding agreed by council in February.
Children and Family Centres, Outreach Centres and Shared Bases.
The eight proposed centres would provide a base for the service and would operate intensively throughout the day. They would be at Banbury, Bicester, Witney, Abingdon, Didcot and three locations in Oxford (Barton, Rose Hill and Blackbird Leys).
These centres would provide a degree of open-access services, be a base for outreach work. There would also be a mobile bus service to deliver services to rural communities. An outreach service would be provided to all parts of Oxfordshire to help families who need the most intensive support. Their overall focus would be on targeting support to those families who need it most– including on issues such as domestic violence, substance misuse and parental mental health as well as readiness for school and parenting advice.
The new money means that the council can now also propose to retain two additional buildings as Shared Locality Bases from which the new 0-19 service will offer support to and group programmes to vulnerable children and their families. These will be located at the current East Oxford Early Intervention Hub/Children’s Centre in Cowley and in Banbury at the current East Street Children’s Centre.
These will not function as additional Children and Family Centres but will provide a shared base for the delivery of services from the main centres in Blackbird Leys and Banbury. A total of £100,000 will be allocated to these new centres.
Eight further centres will be Outreach Bases (these locations already have child care funding). These are:- The Sunshine Centre, Edmunds Road, Banbury- North Banbury Centre, Hardwick School, Banbury- Britannia Road Centre, Grove Street, Banbury- The Ace Centre, Burford Road, Chipping Norton- Slade Children’s Centre, Titup Hall Drive, Wood Farm, Oxford- Grandpont Children’s Centre, Whitehouse Road, Oxford- Elms Road Children’s Centre, Elms Road, Botley- Stephen Freeman Children’s Centre, Freeman Road, Didcot