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Agenda item

Children's Centre Services Contract Extension

*                 Report of the Chief Executive

 

Minutes:

Cllr Richard Clewer, Leader of the Council and Cabinet Member for Climate Change, MCI, Economic Development, Heritage, Arts, Tourism and Health & Wellbeing presented a report which outlined the reasons why a one-year extension to the children’s centre services contract would help to maintain the current early help services offered by the children’s centre contract holders and allow preparation for transformation to a Family Hub model.

 

The Leader highlighted the importance of Children’s centre services and how the service is a vital resource for parents with very young children (aged 0-5), through the delivery of advice and support to families in Wiltshire for the last 18 years.

 

The Cabinet noted that there are 11 children’s centre buildings operating across the county, and further community spaces where services are delivered across each area, as well as offering services in family homes. The children’s centre services contracts are due to expire on 31March 2023.

 

Cllr Ian Thorn commented on the funding of the new hubs and the impact of an unsuccessful bid. In response, the Leader and officers confirmed that the transformation to Family Hub model was a logical step forward and aligned to Government direction, bids for Government funding would be submitted and in the event of these not being successful alternative sources of funding would be accessed.

 

Cllr Gavin Grant expressed his support for the move to Family Hubs and commented on the excellent work of the RISE Trust in Malmesbury. He also commented on future hub buildings and the scope of providers in relation to the extension of the current arrangements. In response, officers confirmed that they had been in discussions with existing providers about the extension of the current contract.

 

Resolved:

 

  1. Cabinet agrees to the negotiation of a one-year contract extension with the current children’s centre commissioned providers (Spurgeons and The RISE Trust) until 31st March 2024. This will allow officers to undertake due diligence and a full consultation with parents and partners organisations to ensure that the development of Family Hubs in Wiltshire meets the needs of local communities.

 

  1. The decision to award a one-year contract and authority for the completion of all necessary legal documentation is delegated to the Director of Procurement & Commissioning in consultation with the Corporate Director of People, and the Cabinet Member for Children, Education & Skills. A paper will be presented to Cabinet to recommend the future Family Hub model following the consultation events later this year.

 

Reason for decision:

 

The Government has committed to championing Family Hubs, which are a way of joining up locally and bringing existing family help services together to improve access to services, connections between families, professionals, services, and providers, and putting relationships at the heart of family help.

 

Family Hubs bring together services for families with children of all ages (0-19) or up to 25 with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), with a great Start for Life offer at their core. They can include hub buildings and virtual offers, but the following principles are key to the family hub model:

 

More accessible

– through clearly branded and communicated hub buildings, virtual offers, and outreach.

 

Better connected

– family hubs drive progress on joining up professionals, services, and providers (state, private, voluntary) – through co-location, data sharing, shared outcomes, and governance. Moving from services organised for under-fives to families with children of all ages reduces fragmentation (even though an emphasis on early years and the ‘Start for Life’ offer will remain).

 

Relationship-centred

– practice in a Family Hub builds on family strengths and looks to improve family relationships to address underlying issues.

 

For Family Hubs to be effective and ready to run from March 2024 there is a requirement for a period of consultation and redesign and so an extension to the current children’s centre services contract would be necessary to allow sufficient time for these developments.

 

The Government is making funding available to Local Authorities to transform their services into Family Hubs. Wiltshire will submit bids for this funding. If the funding bids are not successful there is still a desire to move to a Family Hub model from April 2024.

 

 

Supporting documents:

 

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