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Have your say about proposed changes to our early help service

Published: 6 September 2018

Residents are being urged to have their say about significant changes to our early help service.


The public consultation started this week and will run for 6 weeks until Monday 22 October.

Early help is support for children and young people aged up to 18 (or 25 for those with special needs or who are disabled) and their families early on when problems emerge.

It may be required at any stage in life from pre-birth to adulthood and involves us working with other agencies to understand and support families to help them care for their children and deal with any problem they feel unable to manage on their own.

The service is currently delivered by 25 multi-agency teams (MATs) based across the county which bring together staff including education welfare, youth workers, children’s centres, family support and careers guidance working closely with schools, health visitors, GPs and community groups.

We provide a substantial Early Help Offer which is funded through our own budget and other grant schemes and changes to these arrangements have resulted in the need to review services to ensure that children and young people most in need of help continue to receive it. We also want to make sure we concentrates our resources on the type of activities which evidence shows support them most effectively in line with how many other authorities provide these services.

We’re proposing a significant reduction in the wider early help services we currently offer to enable us to concentrate support on families and children who most need help while also, as far as possible, supporting other organisations to improve and build upon the early help services they already provide.

Meanwhile, as funding and grants reduce, we’ve made a commitment to prioritise more of our own budget to support early help services to the most vulnerable children to prevent risk of harm or family breakdown.

The funding for our Early Help Offer is currently £12.9 million which would reduce to £4.5 million by 2020 if proposals detailed in the consultation are approved. All the proposed changes to the service would, if approved, take 2 years to be fully implemented.

Our Cabinet Member for Young People Councillor Alex Dale said:

“Changes to the way our early help service is funded and a reduction in grants means we need to propose changes to concentrate our resources on children and families who need help the most and to ensure they continue to receive it.

“We also want to make sure we concentrate our resources on the type of activities which have been proven to work best for them.

“The county council currently provides a substantial early help offer but providing this kind of help is the responsibility of all public organisations including schools, not just ours, so we’re also taking this opportunity to consider more effective ways of working with partners as we look closely at all our services to ensure they’re as efficient as possible.

“For some services, including early help, this will mean taking a different approach to how they’re run or funded in future.

“With this in mind, our proposals also include supporting other organisations and the many community and voluntary groups which already provide this kind of help to families across the county.

“We’re encouraging residents to take part in our consultation and give us their views about the proposed changes which we’ll carefully consider before any decisions are made.”

Early help services include family support, youth support, careers advice, work with social care and training for volunteers to organise parent-led community groups.

The consultation will ask Derbyshire residents to give their views about proposed changes to the family support, youth support and careers elements of our early help service.

Family support

Family support helps to prevent harm to children, reduce family conflict and breakdown and help parents look after their children.

We want to concentrate on those who need extra help to help prevent problems arising in future and are proposing to:

  • Reduce the amount of support we offer to all families and concentrate on those who need most help to prevent harm to children, reduce family conflict and breakdown, support parenting and help families to function. We propose that some of the 4,000 families we currently help in this way could be better supported by other services such as health professionals and schools.
  • Work with other services to provide parental guidance in parenting groups to provide advice about issues including healthy eating, meal and bedtime routines, care and attachment and how to set safe boundaries. Parents and carers would in future be able to discuss sensitive issues in a peer support group with a group facilitator.

If our Cabinet approves the proposals following the public consultation, families currently receiving early help would continue to be supported in the same way to avoid disruption.

Youth support

Youth support helps to prevent harm to children, reduce child vulnerabilities and the risk of child exploitation and reduce the number of young people not in education, employment or training and, in doing so, support successful moves to adult life.

We’re proposing in future to concentrate on preventing harm to children and help them stay in education, employment or training to support successful moves to adult life as well as helping the most vulnerable teenagers to maximise their potential, move into adult life at college or work and develop good relationships with others.

We currently provide a range of activities for young people but as the needs of teenagers change, some of our drop-in youth groups have been found to not always be the best way of helping teenagers who most need support. In addition there are other groups in some areas of the county which provide the same kind of opportunities and activities.

We want to ensure work is carried out with teenagers who most need our help either individually or in small groups as there is evidence to show this is a good way to help support vulnerable teenagers.

We’re proposing to:

  • deliver activities which concentrate on vulnerable teenagers including:
    • individual support for teenagers and their families
    • street-based youth work with groups of teenagers to reduce risks of child exploitation and harm
    • small groups to support emotional wellbeing and resilience for teenagers including healthy relationships and sexual relationships advice
  • stop funding our own drop-in youth groups and support the many other organisations and voluntary groups already providing youth activities across the county to develop their work - we’ve recently introduced an Action Grants scheme and are encouraging local voluntary groups to apply for funding to help more of them develop more community-based activities for teenagers

If the proposals are approved we would advise teenagers about other opportunities that may be available in their communities to reduce the overall impact of changes to the service.

Careers

We have up until now provided careers information advice and guidance to some children aged 14 to 18 (or up to 25 years if they are disabled). However, schools and colleges have a legal duty to provide careers education and independent careers information and guidance.

We’re proposing to:

  • look to schools and colleges to provide careers advice to their students in future from the range of alternative established providers in their local areas but continue to provide careers advice for teenagers aged 16 to 18 (or up to 25 years if they are disabled) who are not in education, employment or training

If these proposals are approved, new arrangements would not be brought in before September 2019 when support for young people currently using the service would be completed.

Residents can see the proposed changes and give their views by completing the consultation questionnaire online.

Or by filling in a paper copy available on request by calling the early help team tel: 01629 539132 or 01629 536418 or by writing to:

Early Help Consultation - Room 295, Children’s Services, Derbyshire County Council, County Hall, Matlock, DE4 3AG

Other formats may be available on request.

The closing date for responses is Monday 22 October 2018.

Our Cabinet will consider a report detailing the outcome of the public consultation later this year. An equality impact assessment would also be carried out to ensure that any proposed changes to services would not discriminate against disadvantaged or vulnerable people.