Description of children’s services shake-up criticised as ‘fanciful’

Dan Sartin, UNSION West Sussex branch secretary
Dan Sartin, UNSION West Sussex branch secretary

Describing plans to reorganise county council children’s services as ‘incredibly exciting’ has been branded ‘fanciful’ by a union representative.

An ‘Integrated Prevention and Earliest Help Service’ would bring together existing services in Early Childhood, Early Help, Think Family and the Young People’s Service and incorporate the Healthy Child Programme.

The proposals have been described as ‘incredibly exciting’ by West Sussex County Council and could achieve ‘efficiencies of £6m’, according to an officers’ report.

But Dan Sartin, branch secretary at UNISON West Sussex, said “There is a lot of ‘council-speak’ in the county council’s announcement.

“Neither residents or staff should see these plans as ‘incredibly exciting’.

“There are plans to strip out £6million from already pressured budgets of a set of really important and sometimes statutory council services.

“The idea that we are simply making services better and more efficient is fanciful. Capacity and jobs are bound to be lost, as these are service cuts.”

He added: “What is just as alarming is that the plans put all the council’s services at risk of outsourcing.”

Mr Sartin pointed at the county council’s previous track record of outsourcing, and in this case felt it would be a ‘disaster for the services, staff and West Sussex children and young people’.

According to the county council, proposed changes would see the creation of expert hubs of staff and specialist support within West Sussex communities making it simpler for families to access help, support which looked at the needs of the whole family, identify families who need support at the earliest opportunity, and achieve greater efficiencies to reduce the cost of services.

The redesign would look to reduce duplication, bring services under one management structure, reduce bureaucracy, and simplify support for children and families.

The IP&EHS is due to be discussed by WSCC’s Children and Young People’s Services Select Committee today (Thursday September 8).

Avril Wilson, WSCC’s executive director for care, wellbeing and education, said: “These are incredibly exciting proposals that have tremendous possibilities. If the cabinet member agrees to pursue this new vision then the changes will deliver better services for some of the most vulnerable young people in our communities.

“Historically, separate parts of the county council have provided individual services focussing on different age groups or specific issues such as the Worth Services - the county council’s domestic violence support service.

“But under the new proposals, these services will work together more than ever and will work even closer with our partners to take this joined up approach to the next level.”

This new way of working follows the launch of West Sussex County Council’s Early Help Action Plan 2014-2017, which has made a significant difference to families, with more adults returning back to work, families seeing a reduction in crime and anti-social behaviour, and children returning to school.

There has also been an increase in the take up of free early years childcare entitlement and a high number of families with children under five registered with children and family centres and engaging in activities such as health checks.

There will be further staff and stakeholder engagement to inform final proposals which will be considered towards the end of the year.

Don’t miss out on all the latest breaking news where you live.

Here are four ways you can be sure you’ll be amongst the first to know what’s going on.

1) Make our website your homepage

2) Like our Facebook page

3) Follow us on Twitter

4) Register with us by clicking on ‘sign in’ (top right corner). You can then receive our daily newsletter AND add your point of view to stories that you read here.

And do share with your family and friends - so they don’t miss out!

Always the first with your local news.

Be part of it.