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Bucks' Early Help Consultation

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Darren Whyte

A 10-week consultation launches today, Thursday 4th October, to capture the public's views on proposed ways to deliver early help services to support vulnerable families and children in Buckinghamshire.

Members of the public, particularly those who use the current services or believe they may benefit from them, are encouraged to take part. This can be done online, or by completing printed copies of the survey which are available at Children's Centres and libraries.

Early help services aim to provide families experiencing difficulties with the right help at the right time in a proactive way, before their problems escalate and become harder to resolve. The kind of difficulties they can address may include issues such as parenting, school attendance, home budgeting, domestic abuse, mental health problems, substance abuse or neglect.

In 2017/18 only a small number (15%) of the families using the Council's early help services had an identified need for this type of support. In the same period an even smaller number (5%) of families, with children aged 0-5, who used children's centres had an identified need for support. Evidence indicates that an estimated 31% of 0-19 year olds in Buckinghamshire may benefit from early help support, and the current service is not reaching all of them.

With the County Council having to reduce costs across services because of public sector funding reductions, it is vital to focus resources on helping those most in need in the most effective way possible, by helping families early and reducing demand on long term and statutory support.

The Council has set out three possible options for the future of early help services in Buckinghamshire, including a preferred option (Option B) which it believes would be best able to serve families in need as well as offering some open access sessions.

Warren Whyte, Buckinghamshire County Council Cabinet Member for Children's Services, said:

"We are very eager to know what members of the public think of our new proposals and their feedback will help inform any decisions made next year.

We have looked at evidence and research from other local authorities who have successfully introduced similar service changes, which suggests our preferred option (Option B), offers the best way to deliver improved outcomes for children and families most in need. This would be a mix of Family Centres and outreach services, and would increase partnership working with other organisations, such as schools and health services for instance, offering proactive, connected and targeted services for the people who need them.

We look forward to hearing your views on this option, and the others proposed in our consultation."

The consultation runs until 11pm on Thursday 13 December 2018.

Access to the online survey and supporting information, including greater detail on the proposed options, is available at www.buckscc.gov.uk/earlyhelp.

Several public meetings are being planned during the consultation period to support people in understanding the options in filling out the survey. These are taking place on the following days:

Thursday 8 November

7:00-8:30pm — Mezzanine floor, County Offices, Aylesbury

Monday 12 November

7:00-8:30pm — The Gateway Room, Bucks New University, Queen Alexander Road, High Wycombe

 

Monday 19 November 2018

1:00-2.30pm — Large Barn Hall, Amersham Community Centre, Amersham