Children’s services ‘definitely working’ despite cuts

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A scheme providing support to vulnerable children and their families is ‘definitely working’ – despite cuts to budgets, staff and children’s centres.

Durham County Council’s One Point service had carried out 3,150 assessments by the end of last year, more than double the number it completed in 2016/17.

However, following a review in 2015, it has also seen its number of children’s centres slashed from 43 to 15.

In addition, it has had its budget reduced by about £1m, with more cuts due to be made, and lost 60 members of staff since then, although only four of those were through compulsory redundancy.

Speaking to Durham County Council’s (DCC) Children and Young People’s overview and Scrutiny Panel today (Monday) (April 9) at Durham County Hall, Karen Davison, One Point’s strategic manager, told members she thought a good service was being delivered.

She said: “Hopefully we’ve shown the children centre review has been very positive and our impact increases all the time.

“I think the new model is definitely working and the outreach approach is definitely working.

“It’s often not just about the [children’s centre] building, it’s about the approach.”

However, some members of the panel were not convinced.

Coun Peter Brookes asked why the service had not performed better or been able to see more children before cuts had been made.

He said: “I’m struggling to understand what you say about the success of the service and that the new model is definitely working.

“In 2014/15 there were 866 assessments, [between April and December 2017] there were 3,150, but we’ve lost £1m from the service.”

Davison responded that One Point’s new ‘community delivery model’ meant it was easier to target children in families in need through referrals from midwives, health visitors and others.

She also said there were schemes in place to make sure families were able to access the children’s centres which are still open.

This was backed up by Carole Payne, DCC’s head of early help, assessment and safeguarding.

She added: “Before, it was open to all comers and the car parks would be full of 4x4s.

“It’s much more targeted now.

“For the families living in our most deprived wards, we’re in contact with more of them.”

James Harrison

James Harrison , Local Democracy Reporting Service