Agenda item

Children & Family Centre Updates and Strategic Direction


The item was introduced by Rob Sabin (Lead Commissioner, Family Wellbeing), who explained there were 14 children and family centres in the county; one was operated by St Michaels and the remainder by Barnardo’s. An independent review of the centres had been undertaken in 2023, which concluded there was a good level of performance in relation to provision for 0-4 years; partnership working with speech and language colleagues; improved uptake in two year nursery funding for eligible families; and increased support for families experiencing hardship. However concerns were raised over outreach delivery and service provision for 5-19 years. Since the last update to the Committee work had taken place to improve performance in these areas, but they were still not meeting their key business measure target. Rob Sabin said commissioners and early help officers had been working with the providers and had developed an action plan aimed at improving performance, with a focus on outreach work and provision for 5-19 years. He said St Michaels and Barnardo’s had continued to develop partnerships with health and early help colleagues and this had helped to increase the levels of support for families in need. This included signposting guidance and advice for families, such as where funding grants could be accessed. Data showed the most common decile on the Index of Multiple Deprivation that attendees of the children and family centres came from was decile six. Data also showed there was an underrepresentation of people from rural areas using the centres, and existing community facilities were underutilised.


Responding to points raised by Councillor Justin Kerridge, Liz Entwistle (Commissioner, Family Wellbeing) said Barnardo’s had increased its levels of engagement across the Stratford district with a view to improving delivery of outreach services in particular. Some of the centres now used family link workers to help provide more specific one to one work with certain users. In some cases centres had previously used volunteers to run certain services, and the possibility of using volunteers alongside Council-led services was being looked at.


Councillor Jeff Morgan noted the current contract expired at the end of August 2024 and asked if a decision had been made on what would happen in terms of provision after this date. Becky Hale said this was being considered by officers and an update would be provided in due course. Councillor Jerry Roodhouse stated his belief that a robust discussion on future provision was needed. He also noted there appeared to be an unequal distribution of service provision across the county, and said he would have liked to have seen a fuller breakdown of the family centre budget based on district/borough area. The Chair agreed and asked officers to distribute the budget figures to the members of the Committee.


Responding to questions from Councillor Brian Hammersley, Liz Entwistle said the attendance figures shown in the report showed the percentage population of a district as a whole; for example if everyone from a particular IMD was attending a centre then the figure in the report would be 100. There were different levels of deprivation across the districts and boroughs so there wasn’t a standard comparable percentage figure. In areas of higher deprivation and need work was taking place to make sure centres were delivering against the specific needs of that community. How this was resourced would remain as an area of focus for the remainder of the care contract.


The Chair said she was aware of a nursery group that was run by volunteers, and asked if consideration could be given to increased use of the voluntary sector to operate some Council-led services. Matt Biggs said if a nursery was registered with Ofsted then it would continue to have support from the Council’s quality and safeguarding team. Most nurseries would continue to ask for Council support, regardless of who was operating it, as they would be able to find details of further assistance that was available to them. Matt Biggs said he would discuss this with the Chair outside of the meeting.


Members noted the contents of the report.

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