The Isle of Wight Council is to launch a consultation on plans to change the structure of the Island’s children’s centres to incorporate a wider range of family support services.
The council’s Cabinet approved plans to launch a consultation into a revised model for delivering child and family support services on Tuesday night
There are currently eight children’s centres on the Island run by three different providers (The Children’s Society, Spurgeons and Furzehill Childcare Ltd), all of the centres are rated by Ofsted as either good or outstanding.
The council delivers a range of separate ‘Early Help’ services which includes early childhood support and parenting and family support. These are delivered by the council and a number of external providers on the council’s behalf, providing early and effective targeted assistance when a problem arises in a child’s life.
The council is seeking to incorporate and enhance these parenting and family support services, along with the council’s Strengthening Families programme, into the services delivered by the Island’s children’s centres. Under the proposals, there would be no reduction in front line services and all children’s centre sites would remain open, although would be managed across three clusters (localities).
The current children’s centre provider contracts come to an end in March 2015, providing an opportunity to make changes to the services being offered to families.
The proposals on which the council is consulting on include:
• Integrating a number of existing contracts to reduce management overheads and ensure families receive seamless services for 0 to 19 year olds.
• Making more effective use of children’s centre buildings, incorporating services during evening and weekends.
The council plans to consult with a wide range of stakeholders to understand the needs of service users, providers and partner agencies. An online survey will be available from Sunday 16 March via www.iwight.com, in addition:
• Consultation sessions will be held at each children’s centre (these will be advertised via www.iwight.com)
• Consultation sessions will be arranged with service users of the Early Childhood Support Service, 5 – 19 Family and Parenting Support Service and the council’s Strengthening Families programme.
• Partner agencies and current providers will be invited to respond to the consultation using a variety of methods.
Councillor Richard Priest, Cabinet member for children’s services, said:
“We are proposing to bring together the excellent work of our children’s centres with the important early help support services to strengthen the services offered to families on the Island. It is important that we gather as many views as possible from service users, providers and partner agencies before we make a decision on the changes we are proposing.
“We think change will be necessary but I want to be clear that I see this as change which will be very much in line with our general improvement journey for all children’s services on the Island. That improvement remains my top priority.”