Good Level of Response to Children’s Services ConsultationOver 1,100 people have given their views on Hampshire County Council’s proposals for developing a new Family Support Service.

Commenting, Councillor Keith Mans, Executive Lead Member for Children’s Services, said: “I would like to thank those that have taken the trouble to complete the consultation questionnaire, either online or in paper form, and return their feedback to us. We are just over half way through the ten week consultation period and I am extremely keen that as many people as possible make their views known to us. I am especially keen to hear the views of those that have used and been helped by children’s centre services and early help support.”

Residents, health professionals, voluntary organisations and other stakeholders are being asked to give their views on the County Council’s proposal to transform and modernise existing early help services to better support families in need.

A ten week public consultation opened on 23 February 2016, on the proposal to develop a new, single, integrated Family Support Service that would bring together the work of early help hubs, children’s centre services and youth support services, while aligning closely with the Supporting (Troubled) Families Programme.

The aim would be to target help specifically to vulnerable families with children who have multiple needs, often requiring the involvement of more than one agency. Tailor-made support would be provided at a local level, in order to respond to the needs of local families. With one point of contact, families would no longer need to go to different agencies, as is currently the case.

Councillor Mans added: “I am conscious that there are parents who are concerned about the proposal to reduce the number of buildings in use across the county. What should be borne in mind is that increasingly, services are being delivered in different and more flexible ways through home visits and use of community venues, therefore requiring the use of fewer buildings. The majority of children’s centre services are delivered from venues within schools and other community buildings e.g. community centres.

“If it is agreed to go ahead with the proposals, local community outreach venues such as community centres and church halls would continue to be used to deliver services locally, in order to avoid families having to travel to one ‘centre’, or ‘building’.

“At the consultation awareness raising drop-in events we have held, quite a number of organisations who have attended have expressed an interest in running community activities such as parenting groups from the buildings and could be seeking to expand their services to support those with no specific or lower levels of need.

“This would be in addition to the proposal for the provision of a fully operational children’s centre in each of Hampshire’s 11 districts, located in areas where families in need live. The proposed centres would also serve as the local hub for the Family Support Service.”

For more information, and to respond to the consultation, visit hants.gov.uk/childrens-services-consultation. Paper copies of the consultation can be obtained by contacting 0300 555 1384 or email info@hants.gov.uk. The deadline for responses is midday on 3 May 2016.

A number of informal drop in events are still to take place around the county. At the events, parents, carers and other stakeholders can speak to Children’s Services staff who will be able to answer questions and queries about the consultation. However, there will not be a formal presentation of the proposals.

The events still set to take place are:

– Test Valley 13 April, 9.30–11.30 am, The Lights

– Fareham 14 April, 1–3pm, Fareham Community Church

– Basingstoke 19 April, 1–3pm, Popley Fields Community Centre

– East Hampshire 20 April, 9.30–11.30am, Alton Community Centre

– Havant 21 April, 1–3pm, Waterlooville Community Centre

The Executive Lead Member for Children’s Services, Councillor Keith Mans, will consider the feedback from the consultation when making a decision on the proposal in July 2016.

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