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Petition to: Retain a Children's Centre for Leatherhead / the north of Mole Valley.

This petition is now closed, as its deadline has passed.

We the undersigned petition Surrey County Council to Retain a Children's Centre for Leatherhead / the north of Mole Valley. More details

Petition update 2 from the council, 30 January 2019

The Cabinet’s combined response to petitions concerning Children’s Centres

Thank you for the petitions in support of the statements outlined above.

The decision to make the recommendations in today’s Cabinet report has not been taken lightly. Ofsted inspected the Outcomes for Children in Need of Help and Protection in Surrey in 2014 and again in 2018 and told us we were ‘inadequate’. That means we haven’t been keeping some children and families safe and giving them the right help when they need it. Too many children are accelerated into high level child protection and public care services. The current model is not effective and will not meet the requirements set out in the Ofsted inspections. The model needs to change to achieve better outcomes for children and their families.

The recommendations include remodelling Children’s Centres to create Family Centres as part of a wider Family Service to support families with children aged 0-11 that are the most vulnerable. It is proposed that there will be at least one Family Centre based in each district and borough in areas where children most likely experience poor outcomes (21 in total). These centres will be supported by the use of satellite centres (9), outreach workers, community venues, and retaining one mobile Family Centre.

There are currently 58 Children's Centres in Surrey providing a universal service to families with children aged 0-5. Whilst the centres prioritise families with identified need, there is little evidence to suggest that the most vulnerable families ‘walk into’ the current Children’s Centres. Referrals into Children’s Social Care largely come via schools, GPs and the police.

In 2011 central government ended the original ring fenced grant that funded Sure Start Children’s Centres, in real terms this led to a 49.8% drop in the grant funding. The guidance for Children’s Centres was also altered in 2013 to make provision for a more targeted service. Ofsted also ceased inspection of Children’s Centres at this time. The proposed changes in Surrey are consistent with the funding and guidance changes from 2013 and in effect we are playing catch-up.

The majority of local authorities have re-organised their Children’s Centres into a more targeted model. Large County Authorities including Hertfordshire, Essex and Nottinghamshire have reorganised along the lines of the proposed Surrey model and their services for children in need and protection are rated as good or outstanding by Ofsted.

The reasons for the recommendations are:

1. The current model is not effective and will not meet the requirements set out in the Ofsted inspections. Too many children are accelerated into high level child protection and public care services. The aim of the new Family Centres is to catch these families early and to work alongside them to improve outcomes.
2. We are facing significant challenges to meet the needs of the most vulnerable children and families, whilst managing very difficult financial decisions. We need to make sure that the money we have makes the biggest difference to the children and families who need support the most. This means we need to spend less on universal provision and focus our resources on children and families who are more likely to experience poor outcomes without support.
3. The proposed funding allocation for each district and borough has been designed to reflect the total population of children in communities. Proposed centres have been prioritised in areas with the highest number of children living in homes which have low incomes or where no-one works and therefore in areas that are most likely to have children affected by deprivation. However, we also recognise that some types of need, such as children affected by domestic violence and parental mental health cross the boundaries of deprivation, therefore this has also been taken into consideration.
4. Each of the 11 districts or boroughs in Surrey will have at least 1 main centre. There will also be smaller satellite centres offering fewer services and open less frequently, but they will be places where workers who are supporting families can meet with them. The main centres, however, will also provide outreach support to families in their own homes and will continue to use community venues where needed. This is a model already used to support families that do not live near a Children’s Centre.
5. Whilst we propose to focus the county council Family Centre resource on the most vulnerable children and families, Family Centres could act as venues for families to access support from other universal services, such as health visiting, midwifery, citizen’s advice and support with housing and employment, just as other community venues can and will in other locations where there is no Family Centre. We will/are working with partners to ensure that access is maintained for these services.
Suggestions to increase outreach support and maintain the use of the mobile children’s centres are being taken forward by keeping the use of one bus and wherever possible increasing the number of outreach workers as the Family Centres are implemented. Suggestions to either keep centres open as they are now or with reduced hours have been considered. These suggestions however would increase how much is spent on buildings and leadership rather than supporting vulnerable families and have therefore not been proposed.
Should a decision be taken to close any Children’s Centres, any future use of that building will be carefully assessed and used for the benefit of families, children and the community.

Mr Tim Oliver
Leader of the Council
29 January 2019

Petition update 1 from the council, 07 January 2019

Dear Petition Signers,

This petition has reached enough signatures to be considered at the Cabinet meeting on Tuesday 29 January 2019.

This meeting will be held at 2pm on Tuesday 29 January 2019 in the Ashcombe Suite at County Hall, Penrhyn Road, Kingston Upon Thames, KT1 2DN.

The lead petitioner may speak for three minutes at the meeting and a response to the petition will be tabled at the meeting and published within the meeting’s minutes.

This is a public meeting so signers can attend to watch the discussion and this meeting is also webcast so signers can watch this live using the following link:
https://surreycc.public-i.tv/core/portal/home

Kind Regards,

Vicky Hibbert
Senior Manager – Governance
Democratic Services
Tel: 02085419299
Email: vicky.hibbert@surreycc.gov.uk

More details from petition creator

Retain a Children's Centre in Leatherhead to serve the north of Mole Valley district.

Provide better information on how services might be delivered in the future and engage with the users and community local voluntary sector more closely.

To note that the north of Mole Valley is not in "South East Surrey" and does have needs for parents to access services.

To also note that health services are being commissioned on a locality basis linking Leatherhead with Cobham and with Epsom. Links with the local NHS could be strengthened but directing to a centre at Goodwyns Dorking does not achieve this.

Current signatories

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  • sylvia Solarski
  • Linda Wickens
  • Katie Richards
  • Kate Kench
  • Victoria sauls
  • Prue Timms
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  • Louise
  • Jane Summerfield
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  • Rebecca James
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  • Updated: 19 Mar 2019

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