Children’s services consultation receives over 2000 responses

Cabinet Member for Childrens Services, Warren Whyte
Cabinet Member for Childrens Services, Warren Whyte

A consultation on the future of children’s services has received thousands of responses from the public, with more information expected to be released as soon as next month.

Concerns over a reduction in funding and the future of children’s centres have been expressed during the window, which shut following an extension on October 16.

County councillor for Buckingham East, and cabinet member for children’s services, Warren Whyte explained: “There are some common themes that our officers are now delving into.

“They’ve been looking at responses as they’ve come through, but in the next couple weeks they’ll analyse them all.

“We didn’t get as many responses as I expected after the consultation was extended, but we still got close to 2000 from residents and nearly 400 from organisations.

“I will be reporting back to cabinet in November, with more detail on what the model could look like.”

The new Early Help model aims to revamp children’s service: proposals may see 35 children’s centres replaced with nine hubs spread across the county.

The county councillor continued: “One of the challenges we’ve had with the responses is the ethos of the model has been superseded by the debate over children’s centres - a fair thing to raise in consultation - but there has been research into the fact they don’t reach the people that necessarily need the help.”

“The children’s centre in Buckingham is too small, you could call it a pilot for the new model as we use community locations for most of the activities. In effect our Buckingham residents are already taking part in the new model, but they also have to man the children’s centre, which means they’re not doing other things.”

“I’m quite happy for a community to want to run things as they see fit and for the council to provide the framework and backbone, we need to spend our officer’s time and focus on people whose needs aren’t currently being met.”

Although the location of a new hub, that would serve North Bucks, has not been confirmed, Warren has confirmed that he will be fighting for Buckingham to be considered the ideal spot.

He added: “We have seven million to spend on this system, a huge amount of money. It’s not the ten million we spent this year, however, so to make sure that we improve on outcomes we’re currently getting, there is the need for a new model.

“It will have to deliver a much better service with better outcomes but less money.”