Report by the Executive Director of Children, Young People and Learning.
The Cabinet will be asked to agree recommendations to implement a revised Early Help service offer.
The Cabinet Member for Children and Young People will introduce the report.
The Chairman of the Children and Young People’s Services Scrutiny Committee will be invited to speak for up to three minutes to provide the views of the Committee on the report.
Each of the main minority group leaders will be invited to speak for up to three minutes each on the report.
The Cabinet will then discuss the report and proposals prior to taking any decision.
Following consideration of the report, Cabinet resolved to:
1. Approve the revised Early Help Service offer for implementation in December 2021.
2. Agree plans for a staff consultation from early September 2021 to begin the process of implementing the new offer.
3. Agree plans for Early Help to continue to operate out of 12 centres and declare the other centres surplus to the Early help services operational requirements.
The call-in deadline is 5 August 2021.
8.1 Cabinet considered a report by the Executive Director of Children, Young People and Learning. The report was introduced by Cllr Jacquie Russell, Cabinet Member for Children and Young People, who outlined the redesign proposals, the responses to the consultation and the changes made after reviewing those.
8.2 Cllr Stephen Hillier, Chairman of the Children and Young People’s Services Scrutiny Committee advised that, overall, the proposals were supported to continue with the Children’s Services improvement journey and to reduce intervention from social care. The Committee further felt that effective communication would be crucial for residents and partners to know how and where to access services.
8.3 A written statement from Cllr Kirsty Lord, Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group was read out. Cllr Lord questioned the decision to carry out change whilst responding to the pandemic and alongside improvement work. She questioned accessibility with fewer ‘front doors’ and the impact on other services which operated from some centres. Cllr Lord stated that the response to consultation did not show support and suggested it be re-run.
8.4 Cllr Chris Oxlade, Leader of the Labour Group commented that the consultation results made clear how essential the service was and that the Labour Group did not feel it was clear how the service would be delivered or how the centres would be utilised. He praised the troubled families initiative and asked how families who need support would be identified through the new model and suggested the decision be deferred and rethought.
8.5 The following comments and points were made by Cabinet in discussion:
Ø The consultation had taken account of what the public had said, with 5 changes which strengthened the original proposal.
Ø The Early Help offer was about delivery of a service and not the preservation of buildings.
Ø The service review supported the principles of the Council Plan in that it made best use of available resources, prioritised the most important things and those with most impact and through managing demand on services.
Ø The universal offer was preserved in areas where there was the greatest need.
Ø The DfE Commissioner for West Sussex Children’s Services improvement supported the proposals in principle.
Ø Dedicated link workers in schools would play a key role in the revised offer in identifying children in need of help.
Ø The Early Help offer would be a flexible service increasing reach and providing a more targeted approach.
Ø Evidence and experience from other authorities has been drawn on.
Ø Local member knowledge would be vital over the coming weeks, as would talking to community groups to find alternative arrangements for other building users.
Ø Running costs would be reduced to enable additional staffing to deliver bespoke group work. Equally, WSCC would save on buildings’ emissions, a step towards mitigating the effects of climate change.
8.6 The Leader thanked respondents to the consultation and highlighted the decision is about creating the most agile and effective service which reduces the need for intervention from social care. Cllr Russell summarised that change was integral to the wider transformation of the service and therefore further deferment was not an option. In considering the consultation feedback, adjustments had been made to reflect those in changes to the proposals, and this would increase the reach of the service.
8.7 Resolved – that Cabinet:
1. Approves the revised Early Help Service offer for implementation in December 2021.
2. Agrees plans for a staff consultation from early September 2021 to begin the process of implementing the new offer.
3. Agrees plans for Early Help to continue to operate out of 12 centres and declare the other centres surplus to the Early Help service’s operational requirements.