A consultation on potential changes the way support is provided to families in Somerset, including the role of Sure Start Children’s Centres, launched yesterday.
Anyone with an interest is encouraged to give their views on the Family Support Service proposals which aim to make support as accessible as possible for those who need it most.
The plans would also fully join-up the County Council’s getset service (which includes Children’s Centre support for 0 to 4-year-olds and support for families with children aged 0 to 19) with the support offered by Health Visitors and School Nurses.
More support would be offered through community venues, in people’s homes and online – concentrating council spend on supporting families rather than running expensive buildings, at a time when Government funding has been reduced.
Details of the proposals, further information and a questionnaire to complete can be found online www.somerset.gov.uk/ familysupportandchildrenscentr es and in children’s centres. Drop-in sessions have also been organised for people to find out more and give their views.
Under the proposals, there would be a move from the current arrangement of 24 Sure Start Children’s Centres to a network of eight Family Centres serving the whole county and located in the areas of highest need and demand.
These eight centres would act as main ‘hubs’ for services and coordinate the work in the surroundings area. The other 16 buildings that currently have Sure Start Children’s Centre status would continue to offer early childhood services including education and nursery places to help meet the demand for spaces.
Cabinet member for Children and Families, Councillor Frances Nicholson, said: “We know the subject of change to this support, especially children’s centre services, is very emotive and we want as many people as possible to share their views.
“Our driving principle is to get support to those who need it most as early as possible so it can have the biggest impact. Buildings don’t support people, staff and the support they deliver do – the services will remain, it is how and where they are delivered that may change.
“By working differently, we believe we can help children and families achieve better outcomes and make our money go further.”
The closing date for responses is 1 December, 2017. The information gathered will help shape final proposals that will be considered by councillors early in 2018.