ALL CHIL­DREN’S CEN­TRES PUT UN­DER THREAT

Cam­paign­ers call coun­cil’s clo­sure pro­pos­als ‘short-sighted’

Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - FRONT PAGE - by TOM HER­BERT tom.her­bert@trin­i­tymir­ror.com Twit­ter: @TRHer­bert

CAM­PAIGN­ERS have hit out at sweep­ing plans that put all of the county’s chil­dren’s cen­tres at risk of clo­sure.

Bucks County Coun­cil (BCC) has put for­ward pro­pos­als that would see nine Early Help hubs re­place the 35 cen­tres that ex­ist in Buck­ing­hamshire. BCC is look­ing at ways of stream­lin­ing and im­prov­ing their ap- proach to sup­port­ing early help ser­vices for chil­dren and fam­i­lies and is half­way through a pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion.

But health cam­paigner Ozma Hafiz said: “Well es­tab­lished places like chil­dren’s cen­tres are key in help­ing peo­ple ac­cess early help and sup­port in or­der to pre­vent is­sues es­ca­lat­ing.

“Once again it is the most vul­ner­a­ble who will be af­fected by th­ese de­ci­sions.

“It is be­com­ing clearer that the driver be­hind th­ese de­ci­sions is a short-sighted fi­nan­cial one. Bar­ri­ers in ac­cess­ing help can amongst other things re­sult in more ex­pense later on. Strip­ping the com­mu­nity of vi­tal as­sets is com­pletely un­ac­cept­able. Chil­dren’s cen­tres should re­main open in their fa­mil­iar, eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble locations.”

Linda Der­rick said: “It’s not just about Chil­dren’s Cen­tres. BCC pro­pose to com­bine all ser­vices for chil­dren and young peo­ple, close all the build­ings, cut the bud­get and con­tract the lot out.

“Out the win­dow goes all the work

Our tax pay­ers need to have con­fi­dence in how we are spend­ing our money wisely on those who are most in need

in im­prov­ing chil­dren’s ser­vices for the last three years. And when BCC con­tracted out some of the adult so­cial ser­vices it had to cover nearly £3 mil­lion of debt.”

BCC cab­i­net mem­ber for chil­dren’s ser­vices Warren Whyte said: “We’re here to sup­port those chil­dren and fam­i­lies who need us the most and we know that our cur­rent early help ser­vices like chil­dren’s cen­tres are not do­ing this.

“We need to change that. We can’t con­tinue to pro­vide ser­vices for all when there are other or­gan­i­sa­tions that pro­vide this type of fam­ily sup­port widely across the county.

“Our tax pay­ers need to have con­fi­dence in how we are spend­ing money wisely on those who are most in need.

“De­vel­op­ing a new early help ser­vice is about tar­get­ing ser­vices for chil­dren and fam­i­lies in a bet­ter way to those who need help the most and go­ing out to where fam­i­lies are – not re­duc­ing ser­vices for th­ese fam­i­lies.

“We want to work with the whole fam­ily as we know that when there is a prob­lem in a fam­ily it af­fects ev­ery­one, not just in­di­vid­u­als.

“This will in­clude help­ing with things like par­ent­ing wor­ries, tack­ling be­havioural is­sues with their chil­dren, money wor­ries, re­la­tion­ship break­downs and be­ing out of work.

“It will in­evitably mean changes to ex­ist­ing ser­vices but will also mean bet­ter use of other lo­cal com­mu­nity fa­cil­i­ties and a more flex­i­ble ser­vice able to re­spond to chil­dren and fam­ily needs.

“We’re out to con­sul­ta­tion with an open mind and will wel­come ev­ery­one’s views or opin­ions – so that to­gether we can find the best so­lu­tions.

“We are lis­ten­ing and have ex­tended the con­sul­ta­tion to 16 Oc­to­ber, pro­vid­ing more de­tail so that peo­ple have as much in­for­ma­tion as pos­si­ble and can re­spond fully.

“I’d en­cour­age you to have your say and help us shape the very best ser­vices for chil­dren and their fam­i­lies for the fu­ture.” The fol­low­ing ser­vices will be af­fected by the plans:

Bucks Fam­ily In­for­ma­tion Ser­vice

Chil­dren’s cen­tres

Ad­vice and sup­port for young peo­ple through Con­nex­ions (Ad­viza)

Early Help co­or­di­na­tors

Fam­i­lies First

Fam­ily Re­silience

Sup­port for chil­dren who have lived with Do­mes­tic Vi­o­lence

Sup­port for par­ents through Barnardo’s

Young car­ers sup­port

Youth Ser­vices

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