|Cllr Sheila Scott OBE Cabinet Member for Childrens Services ... |
unable to master her brief, refuses to resign.
Residents are invited to attend meetings over the closures of children's centres currently operating in Peterborough at three public consultation events. The PBROTRIB wades through the proposals. It makes for grim reading...
There are currently 15 well used children's centres in the city. The council is claiming that Westminster no longer gives councils a specific allocation or budget to fund and maintain existing children's centres or open new ones.
Instead, the policy and funding is now to support families through 'an arms length process' including an offer of 15 hours free childcare for all three and four-year-olds in the City.
Peterborough is also doubling the number of health visitors who will they say support new parents, and they say funding targeted services "for families with the most complex needs" through projects including the Connecting Families programme.
So it really is the end for childrens centres, even though the proposal has been called in. The council claims changes come at a time when they have seen a 46 per cent reduction in the funding it receives from Government - about £38 million, But still magically large amounts of cash can be found for several vanity projects, including eyewatering amounts for the whole Cathedral Square area, and further budgets diverted to consultants preliminary work on the solar energy farm proposal.
It still has to be investigated if all the funds (public money) spent in this way was properly authorised. There is also the huge financial question mark hanging over the strange activities of the PCC Energy company Blue Sky Peterborough Ltd, and how that was funded.
However the money has been spent in recent years, there is no way to claw it back, The fact remains the council faces a black hole in its finances and audit.
Their answer is to cobble together proposals which to any right thinking person means the children's centres as we know them, will go the way of care homes. Vanish. Whichever way the cake is sliced, the PCC will they say, try to target families who they judge to be in the greatest need across the city.
The Cabinet decided at a meeting on Monday November 18th to create what they term four Super Hub Centres [SHC] to operate as a catch all one-stop shop for all family services, frankly there is nothing 'Super' about any of it, but this is going out to public consultation - just as the care homes closures did.
The consultation events are being held on:
- Tuesday 26 November: from 2pm to 4pm and 6pm to 8pm, at The Fleet, Fletton High Street, Peterborough, PE2 8DL
- Friday 29 November: from 1.30pm to 3.30pm and 4pm to 6pm at The Cresset, (The Gallery Suite), Rightwell, Bretton, Peterborough, PE3 8DX
- Monday 2 December: from 2pm to 4pm and 6pm to 8pm, at The John Mansfield Campus, Western Avenue, Dogsthorpe, Peterborough, PE1 4HX
Councillor Sheila Scott OBE (CON) who for her London based day job, is the national mouthpiece for the owners of private adult care homes and one time owned her own Adult Care Home.... Her convention presentations can be found all over You-Tube.
In our view Cllr Sheila Scott has never really mastered her Childrens Services brief, she gives a jumbled justification for the childrens centre closures. The full text is on the PCC website.
Cllr. Scott is the Cabinet Member for Children's Services, cutting through the 'smoke and mirrors,' this is roughly what is on offer:
The cost cutting proposal is a series of 'Super' Hub Centres - a walk in one stop shop and what is termed outreach centres. The vacated buildings to be used to meet other needs in Peterborough possibly offered to schools or new pre-schools to open in these facilities.
The four Hub Centres would be based on the current sites of Orton, East, First Steps and Paston children's centres.
These centres would be turned over to services from a larger number of organisations such as health, housing, education, police and employment services to provide a one-stop-shop for family services.
The second proposal is for Fulbridge, Gladstone and Bretton centres to be turned into outreach centres working solely with those families in the greatest need of support to ensure their children get a better start in life and basically ready for school. These centres will therefore offer restricted access and services.
The third proposal is to consider turning over the remaining centre buildings in Stanground, Hampton, Brewster Avenue, East Rural in Eye and Thorney, Westwood and Ravensthorpe based at Highlees School and Werrington to provide some additional school and pre-school places.
The only exceptions to the proposals concern Caverstede Children's Centre and West Rural Children's Centre in Wittering.
It is proposed that Caverstede becomes a specialist centre for families with children with special needs, and those 'known' to children's services, whilst retaining the nursery school on the same site.
The proposal for West Rural is to explore the option of setting up a community interest company (outsourcing possibly to a private commercial firm) to run the centre to particularly provide support for families from RAF Wittering.
If approved, the proposals will only save the council £1.2 million but clearly there will be a complete change in what has been available so far.
The Coalition Government currently supports families in variety of different ways :
- Funding for 15 hours free childcare per week for two-year-olds in low income families
- Funding for 15 hours free childcare per week for all three and four-year-olds for all families
- A Family Nurse Partnership which delivers a home visiting programme for first time mothers and fathers under the age of 19
- A Public Health Healthy Child Programme for children, young people and families, which offers a programme of screening tests, immunisations, developmental reviews, information and guidance on parenting and healthy choices. It aims to identify families which need additional support or who are at risk of poor health
- More funding directly to schools to provide before and after-school activities for children
- More funding for health visitors to support new parents (in Peterborough the number of health visitors is doubling - no numbers are given so that could be as little as 2!
- More funding for Troubled Families (known as the‘Connecting Families’ programme in Peterborough) which works with families who have lots of complex issues.
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