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Childrens Centres, Early Help and Specialist Family Support (Hu1)


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Childrens Centers

The proposal is to change the operating model to a Hub and Spoke model with a centralised children centre and provide outreach services to five locations in the borough with reduced delivery to a maximum of 1 full day per week using community buildings to support delivery.  Children’s Centres provide early support in a universal and targeted manner specially to pregnant woman and children and their families 0-5 years.  The Childcare Act 2006 defines the role of the local authority as ensuring there is sufficient children centres as practicably possible.  There is a requirement  to ensure consultation is undertaken in respect of any major change in children centre provision.  The Local Authority works with health and job centre plus partners to ensure early childhood and employment services can be sufficiently signposted or offered from such centres. A children centre must also provide a number of activities for children 0-5 years to improve their life chances including health inequalities, school readiness and parental employment.

Children Centres are currently based in Haughton (stand-alone building) McNay Street (stand-alone building) Dodmire (spaced leased from Longfield Academy Trust) Mount Pleasant (part of Mount Pleasant School a maintained school by the council) and Skerne Park (spaced leased from Hummersknott Academy Trust).

Children Centres provide the opportunity for early identification of families and children who may, if not offered support at the earliest opportunity, require input from specialist services at an increased cost to the local authority. Opportunities for direct work with children and families would be limited given the reduction in bespoke children’s centres buildings.

Early Help

Working Together 2015 requires local authorities to work together with partner agencies and offer early help support to those families who are identified as having additional needs and support requirements.  Following identification an assessment is required to ensure services can be identified to support the child and family to prevent escalation to Children Social Care provision.  The local authority has a responsibility to promote interagency co-operation, establish the local process for Early Help and identification and establish the process as part of a continuum of need which should be agreed and promoted by the Local Safeguarding Board.  It is the role of the Local Safeguarding Board to monitor and evaluate the offer of services.

The current proposal is to merge existing family support services into one centralised team offering Early Help to those families where breakdown is imminent, who have multiple risk factors which impacts on family life.  Support those young people who are risk of becoming looked after, have poor school attendance or are likely to become NEET.  This will include a services that operate 7 days a week to the children and young people who are at risk of becoming looked after.

Currently there is significant co-ordination with the DWP secondee to focus on adults in the families getting back into employment. Fewer resources would inhibit the ability to work intensively to achieve this objective.

With reduced FIT resources there is likely to be an impact on the area based social work teams, the YOS and the FIT in terms of caseloads. There would be an increased expectation that social workers in the teams would complete the necessary interventions currently undertaken by the FIT.


Hu1 Childrens Centres, Early Help and Specialist Family Support



Keywords: voluntary sector VCS

Related FAQs

Has the Council looked at ways buildings or services could be looked after by local groups?

Has the Council looked at ways buildings or services could be looked after by local groups?

We appreciate that there might well be groups willing to take over running buildings or services. While it is important that they are aware of the costs and responsibilities they would take on, we would be very happy to receive proposals. Unfortunately the speed of the spending reductions mean that the Council does not have the time to work with groups over any length of time so proposals need to be firmed up quite soon. 

What will be the impact on voluntary organisations such as Citizen’s Advice, Age UK, GADD? What happens if they close?

What will be the impact on voluntary organisations such as Citizen’s Advice, Age UK, GADD? What happens if they close?

We fully support the work of our voluntary sector partners and hope to continue to work with them in the future. However, the financial situation is such that the Council is not able to continue funding these organisations at current levels. The likely impact of the budget proposals on these organisations is currently being identified, following discussions with the organisations most affected. We hope that they are able to continue their work by looking at where they can make further cost and efficiency savings, but we appreciate that in some cases this may not be possible and it will therefore mean a reduction in the support they can offer to the residents of Darlington.  It could lead to the closure of organisations if they are unable to make the necessary changes for them to be sustainable, which will be very regrettable. We want to avoid this happening and we will support organisations making grant applications where we can. We will also be undertaking work to understand the impact of any reductions in service on individuals accessing them. 

The Council’s Children’s Services has already failed an Ofsted report – won’t cutting the budget make things worse?

The Council’s Children’s Services has already failed an Ofsted report – won’t cutting the budget make things worse?

We are spreading reductions over time to work with partners on new services. We now have an improvement plan in place to tackle the problems highlighted by Oftsed, which is getting us back on track, and ensures that all our services contribute to giving all children and young people in Darlington the best start in life.
Our proposals aim to develop a new service that combines early help with other support, which will include Children’s Centre delivery, early help and Troubled Families. Working with partners we are changing our approach, building on what works to target support at those children and families in greatest need. We are also strengthening our area social work teams and management in response to the Ofsted improvement plan. 

Your Say

11 comment(s)

This table lists comments from the public about this proposal


Core AH2 (Adult Social Care Other Commitments)
Cut Hu01 (Childrens Centres, Early Help and intervention - Specialist Family Support)
Cut Hu03 (Looked After Children)

I understand there might be a need to but council none essential services but don't think social services should be one of them. What would happen if the council just stopped providing them? There must be at legislative need for housing, child services etc so would an agency be drafted in to do the work? It could be better all round if these services were privately run as the funding would then be in place. Also, attract more commercial business into town with lower unit rent and cheaper car parking,

Cut Hu01 (Childrens Centres, Early Help and intervention - Specialist Family Support)

I am shocked and extremely worried about this proposal. My local Children's Centre, Mount Pleasant was a lifeline to me when I was on maternity leave with my daughter. I attended the breastfeeding support group almost every week, then play groups as my daughter got older. This was one of the few chances during the week I got to socialise and gain vital advice. My little girl learned important social skills and grew into a confident little toddler, I am certain, due to the regular chances she had to play and interact with other infants in a stimulating environment and the play sessions gave me many ideas to try at home. I hope to have a second baby but worry what there will be left to do with her in the town, with the addition of the closure of the libraries where we also attend fabulous sessions for young children.

Cut Hu01 (Childrens Centres, Early Help and intervention - Specialist Family Support)

I've been using the centres (mainly mount pleasant) for almost 4 years now. From the early days of motherhood when I needed support from everything from breastfeeding and health worries or just having somewhere to go to get out of the house with a tiny baby the centre was always there. The groups we have enjoyed and all the brilliant and lovely friends I have made while there. Fast forward to now and the children's centre has given me wonderful opportunities to volunteer. Helping new mummies in breastfeeding group, helping in play groups and being part of the families forum are all experiences I wouldn't have been able to have without the children's centre. This place and the people in it, whether they be staff or other parents I have met along the way, have helped me so much in my life. With my confidence, given me support and friendship when I've needed it most. This is my story and experience of the centre. I feel very passionately that these centres need to stay open as the valuable resource to the families and children of our community that they are. I have set up a Facebook group to help bring people together to help in this matter and have put a link up for this website so those families can make their comments here as well. Thank you

Core LLE12 (Indoor and Outdoor Markets)
Cut Hu01 (Childrens Centres, Early Help and intervention - Specialist Family Support)
Core EffR19 (Senior Management costs)
FF 52b (A Remodelled Dolphin Centre including the Central Library)

Hugely disappointed on several levels. The character and heritage of the town is being ignored. The Pease library should not be sold (as much as I love the civic theatre). To move it I believe will in all likelihood end up in a substandard library in the faceless council answer to everything The Dolphin centre . Maintain it , get groups more involved , cafe proposals, children's services . Half hearted suggestions previously ,never given true thought. Author signings/ talks . Seven stories etc... Organise author talks and charge ( I have been ) and seen the numbers it can attract if someone puts the effort in and these have been in faceless halls rather than beautiful buildings .

Local traders and their livelihoods once and the towns history. The market hall if it is allowed to go leaves darlington with faceless big name retailers that any other place has. foffanos the most recent I can think of and its venture into the deli should be commended for trying to bring variety into the town and they are now hit with this ?

Are the vunerable to be hit again ? kids need support when young to give help before the problems become bigger. whether this is at learning levels or at children's home levels. local businesses see enough trouble already with dealing with shoplifters, drunks, drugs and more recently troublesome teens. it's bad enough now by not giving support ( and aid to relevant charities) you are encouraging this to spiral. My issue is not so much children centres closing and maybe being condensed into one hub it's the wider picture and the fact that some of the charities do the work that the social services can't afford to. They pick up the reins and step in when others will not but the impact of what they do should not be overlooked.
I acknowledge that things such as xmas lights, flowers, grass cutting are a luxury. I also believe though that the council are suggesting library staff ( and others) face redundancy how about those at the top taking a cut in wages ? many other businesses have faced restructure amongst every level and to stay afloat if that's what it takes . it is not a miracle cure but it would also be a gesture that those at the top also acknowledge that they'll need to bear the pressure of cuts.

Cut Hu01 (Childrens Centres, Early Help and intervention - Specialist Family Support)
Core AH3 (Adult Packages)

Having read your proposals, I think that the Council should charge those able to pay for those services currently FOC or subsidized, within the legal requirements, in order to gain more revenue (under Core AH3 proposals). I do believe that some kind of (even minimal) charge could be made for many services, currently FOC. Used by thousands, this could increase revenue quite significantly.
Grass cutting - especially football pitches - why are these to be maintained and not other areas? Footballers and community volunteers could cut the grass they use, so that other areas are cut as at present.
Futures Fund: Needs of families and others with social/other problems, debt, etc., are currently helped by organisations & communities, such as CAB, Age UK, The Bridge, etc., all of whose funding you propose to stop. Until a year or so ago, I worked as a volunteer with the CAB. Help with debt and benefits alone, met the needs of approx. 20,000 people living in the Borough year ended March 2013 (just to give one, small example). If organisations, such as the CAB, cease to exist, then the Council will need to pick up the slack. Many clients were referred in the first place to the Bureau by Council officers and the Job Centre, who weren't prepared to offer the help needed. So the council will be required to spend even more. Even more community organisations should be encouraged and supported, saving the Council money in the long run.
Moving kids centres to the Dolphin Centre - a reasonable project, if it really will save money.
160 Council jobs to be cut? Many of these, I imagine, will comprise lower paid workers offering essential services, such as litter picking, etc. Yet you propose to spend the £2.5 million left over from legally required provision of services on economic growth and job opportunities. It just doesn't make sense! If a private company cut 160 jobs, there would be outrage and the Unions would get into full swing.

Core HP5 (Public Health Health Advice NHS Core Offer)
Cut W06 (Dolphin Centre)
Cut S04 (Stop Smoking and Tobacco Control)
Cut Hu01 (Childrens Centres, Early Help and intervention - Specialist Family Support)
Cut S11 (Engagement Team)
Cut C12 (Healthwatch)

Darlington Borough Council Medium Term Financial Plan 2016-2020

Thank you for the opportunity for NHS Darlington Clinical Commissioning Group (DCCG) to respond to the consultation on the Medium Term Financial Plan (MTFP) for Darlington Borough Council (DBC). As a key local strategic partner and having worked closely with the Council as part of the Health and Wellbeing Board, the CCG fully appreciates the scale of the financial challenges faced by the Council and the difficult prioritisation process that will need to be undertaken to finalise a sustainable financial position for the future.
We have reflected on your proposals and the impact assessment work completed to date in order to provide a considered response through the consultation process. We have particularly focused our comments described below, on those planned changes that we consider will be detrimental to the overall health and wellbeing of the population of Darlington now and in years to come. We note and appreciate the rationale for the two phase approach to the MTFP for 2016/17 to 2019/20. The scale of the financial challenge over this period is indeed unprecedented. The CCG has noted the projection that the Council will have lost £44.0m of Government Funding over the period 2010-2020 and acknowledges the need to first and foremost, focus effort and resource on discharging statutory duties and the need to systematically review those discretionary services that may be most valued by the public. That said we are keen to see and work with the council, to consider a transformational approach to demand management rather than simply shrinking services.
There are some key areas which the CCG would like to highlight where the planned actions may well impact directly on health services but most importantly on the overall health and well-being of the population. A number of the changes planned appear to be in direct conflict with “Fair Society, Healthy Lives” (Marmot, 2010) and specifically with the Darlington Health
Profile data which describes the needs of our local community and key areas of priority to improve health and wellbeing and reduce inequalities namely:-
 Giving every child the best start in life;
 Tackling alcohol related harm, and
 Promoting mental health and wellbeing
Children and Young People in Darlington
It is widely accepted that giving children a good start in life and prioritising children’s services is key to improving life outcomes. Planned reductions such as removing elements of the positive support pathway for young people and cessation of funding to the Aspire Service are a matter for concern. We know that early help and support ensures young people, and specifically those with learning difficulties, are able to live happy and productive lives often then reducing their dependency on more costly care provision. We therefore consider this planned reduction in services will impact on our statutory health services as well as the long term health and well-being of children and young people.
We have noted the proposal to change the operating model for Children’s Centres to a hub and spoke arrangement. This would appear to provide a useful and innovative way to preserve access to an important service although we have a degree of concern with respect to the potential impact of greater centralisation when we know that some of the most vulnerable families and children may fall away if services are not more local. This will require careful monitoring over coming months to ensure that the most needy continue to access the care and support they require.
Within the consultation documents other planned changes in the Children and Young People’s Portfolio such as changes to the Early Help and Looked After Children contact services and removal of discretionary early support service are considered critical to supporting vulnerable families. We are significantly concerned that such changes will inevitably hit the most vulnerable and will focus on crisis management rather than supporting early identification and prevention. This may result in increased pressure on other services including but not exclusively, healthcare where we know that these families typically use health services more than other groups in the population.
The MTFP describes a range of cuts to the provision of services for preventing and reducing obesity in adults and children, including no direct intervention programmes and the removal of the Healthy Darlington Hub, the Move More Team and the Schools Sports Partnership Programme. This is disappointing given the poor Child Health Profiles for Darlington including higher than average deprivation, poor life expectancy, which is 11.8 years lower for men and 9.4 years lower for women in the most deprived areas of Darlington than in the least deprived areas of the town (2015),and that about 20.6% (4,100) children live in poverty.
Our health profiles tell us that improvements in child health are needed given that for example, 11.2% of children aged 4-5 years and 18.4% aged 10-11 years are classified as obese and Darlington is worse than the England average for adult obesity (29.3% vs 23% England average). The Healthy Hub has been highly valued by our GP community and we understand that almost 2/3 of referrals to the Hub are from Primary Care. Proposed changes to the service will have a direct impact on GP colleagues and their ability to signpost the most needy in the population to services that appropriately focus on support, empowerment, self-care and primary prevention thus avoiding over medicalisation and dependence. The Healthy Hub has provided a key point of contact for advice and support programmes in the
community to encourage the right wellbeing choices and not being reliant on a health service solution. Again applying the Marmot principles we need to work as a system to ensure we are focussed on improving outcomes for children and vulnerable groups which will impact on longer term health. Planned changes by the Council to the obesity prevention and support services appear to conflict with this local priority and will impact on services available to the population, young and older, to “eat well and move more” and constrain their ability to achieve a healthier lifestyle.
Vulnerable Groups in the population
We are concerned that several of the planned changes appear to affect those most at risk and the vulnerable in our society, in particular those with a learning difficulty, the homeless and those who are often known to several organisations as high impact users with complex and chaotic lifestyles.
The MTFP describes removal of posts in the Drug, Alcohol and Tobacco Team and removal of the contribution to BALANCE and FRESH. These actions will impact on the capacity to deliver national campaigns and allow a local focus. We believe that BALANCE and FRESH deliver significant local benefits and by working at scale should provide good value. Services such as these have critical importance in raising awareness, prevention and improving health outcomes for the population which in turn is important to maintaining a healthy workforce and economic prosperity. The local health profiles for Darlington highlight both alcohol and smoking as key priorities. We know the rate of alcohol related hospital stays among the under 18s is worse than the England average; the rate of alcohol related harm in adults is worse than the England average; the rate of self-harm hospital stays is worse than the England average; the rate of smoking at time of delivery is worse than the England average and whilst the rates of smoking in Darlington have begun to decline over recent years, they remain unacceptably high and the rates of smoking related deaths is worse than the England average. There may therefore be scope in reshaping services to ensure that those services that are funded have a high probability of delivery of the expected impact.
Public mental health services, such as the removal of the Arts on Prescription service and the community based mental health improvement training, provide additional support for people living with mental health issues. We know improved mental health and wellbeing is associated with a range of better outcomes, including improved physical health, increased life expectancy and employment rates and reduced risk-taking behaviours such as smoking and drug and alcohol misuse.
For all these areas there are direct impacts on individuals, but they also place avoidable economic pressures on NHS and social care resources. We believe that a reduced focus on these priority areas could produce detrimental medium and longer term impacts on the health and wellbeing of the population and widen the inequalities gap we are trying so hard to collectively reduce.That said we do acknowledge the challenging reductions in the public health grant and the difficulty in identifying those interventions that are evidenced based and will deliver the greatest health and wellbeing impact. We will be keen to work with you over the coming months to understand better how these effects could potentially be mitigated.
We acknowledge the considered approach taken to streamline the Sexual Health Services however, we have already had a degree of concern raised from Primary Care with respect to the new arrangements for sexual health and need to ensure that our organisations are working together to commission services that are accessible and appropriate to provide for the immediate needs of individuals and to prevent longer term ill health.
We note a planned removal of the contribution to the Home Improvement Agency which would inevitably reduce the provision of services with a possible impact seen again on those most vulnerable and those from a low income homes with respect to ensuring a safe and accessible home environment and thereby reducing the need for higher cost alternative care provision.
Darlington’s Voluntary and Community Sector (VCS)
Darlington has long been regarded as having a vibrant and active VCS and a pivotal role in delivery of care outside of mainstream services; indeed to date DBC and the CCG have jointly sought to strengthen the capacity and capability of the sector in order to ensure we have services aligned to key joint priorities and plans such as the Better Care Fund projects which are critical to delivery of our Darlington 2020 Vision and priority focus on self-management, optimising independence and care outside of hospital. We know VCS organisations provide extremely cost effective alternatives in certain areas of provision as well as meeting key gaps in provision in the end to end care pathway. The planned impact of removing the engagement team support to the VCS, cutting of the Strategic Grant to organisations (including Age UK Darlington, Citizens Advice Bureau, Darlington Action on Disability and First Stop), together with stopping the discretionary rate relief will no doubt place significant pressure on VCS organisations and impact on their viability long term. Sadly we know that it will take many years to re-build this capacity and expertise once it has gone.
We are surprised and disappointed in the planned and marked reduction in the Healthwatch Darlington (HWD) funding arrangements from 2017/18. We and other organisations very much value the work of HWD, particularly with specific seldom heard groups in our population such as children and young people and BME communities. Such funding pressures on HWD alongside other funding impacts on the VCS give major cause for concern in the context of achieving the ambitions of the 2020 Vision, Better Care Fund and indeed the Healthy New Towns initiatives.
We are keen therefore to explore the potential for a more strategic approach to developing and sustaining the VCS and review how we collectively channel our resources with others to commission these important supporting services. Indeed we acknowledge your support for this approach and are pleased with our early discussions on this subject.
Public Health Core Offer
The MTFP highlights a range of reductions to the Public Health Grant many of which we have already commented on above. Whilst we have had a number of helpful discussions with the Director of Public Health and other DBC colleagues in respect of the impacts and mitigations, we remain concerned that such significant and far reaching changes are planned within the context of the Five Year Forward View (July, 2014) which requires a very clear system wide focus on prevention. We note that you intend to serve notice on the contract for Tees Valley Shared Services which raises significant concerns from the CCG in terms of delivery of the required Public Health core offer within a local and more limited team. We have welcomed the discussions already started with the Director of Public Health on how this core offer can be met and the challenges that may present, however we would like to understand better how DBC will fulfil its required duties in providing the required advice and support in terms of access to data, analytical capacity and the full range of expertise we currently enjoy, given our shared responsibilities for closing the health and wellbeing gap articulated in the Five Year Forward View and to be delivered through the Sustainability and Transformation Plan.
In summary, we have articulated our concerns in relation to those areas that we believe will specifically impact on the health and wellbeing of Darlington residents, recognising the difficulties in identifying alternative proposals that could deliver the required reduction in spending. We genuinely recognise the difficult prioritisation process DBC faces and very much wish to place on record our commitment to work collaborative with the Council to strategically consider how we mitigate the impact of planned changes to ensure the most advantageous health and wellbeing outcomes for local people.
We look forward to discussing with you in due course the outputs of the consultation.
Yours sincerely,
Ali Wilson
Chief Officer
Darlington Clinical Commissioning Group
Andrea Jones
Miriam Davidson
Suzanne Joyner
Cllr Bill Dixon
Cllr Wendy Newall
Cllr Andy Scott

Core CYP4 (Early Help Model Revised)
Cut Hu01 (Childrens Centres, Early Help and intervention - Specialist Family Support)

The role and work of the Early Support Service already supports the Council's proposed Early Help Offer, delivered with partner agencies based on the premise that early intervention in the onset of difficulties is both more cost effective and contributes to better outcomes for children and young people

Core HP2 (Public Health 0-19 Years )
Cut S08 (Public Health Other)
Core HP1 (Public Health Sexual Health Services)
Cut Hu01 (Childrens Centres, Early Help and intervention - Specialist Family Support)
Cut S03 (Core offer and Tees Valley Public Health Shared Service)

CCG Letter of Response to MTFP


FF 52k (Financial and debt advice and welfare rights services)
Cut Hu01 (Childrens Centres, Early Help and intervention - Specialist Family Support)

This is a transcription of a comment made during the public meetings held during the budget consultation:

Q: I deliver advice services to two children’s centres in Darlington. If you move the centre into the town, a lot of vulnerable clients will not be able to get to it. We deal with everything, I do not know what’s going to come through the door. We have a lot of ladies with disabled children and we help them claim benefits, which is a minefield in itself. What is the council going to do for vulnerable clients in Darlington?

A: (Cllr Dixon) In terms of advice and support for young people, a lot of these young people have not just statutory needs but incredibly complex needs. We have enough money to deal with the statutory elements of this budget and that’s about all and that’s the tragedy. I think that’s shocking in the fifth or sixth richest country in the world, but we have to live within these means.

Core LLE12 (Indoor and Outdoor Markets)
Cut W05 (Cockerton Library)
Cut Hu01 (Childrens Centres, Early Help and intervention - Specialist Family Support)
FF 52b (A Remodelled Dolphin Centre including the Central Library)

This is a transcription of a comment made during the public meetings held during the budget consultation:

Q; There’s a lot of debt and a lot of people are suffering because of the debt. A lot of money has been wasted by the Council. Like the water feature, a lot of people did not want that. We are losing a lot of historical features like Cockerton and Crown Street Libraries and the market. A lot of people are proud to live in Darlington but we are losing so much of the history. We hear that suicide rates are increasing in Darlington. A lot of people will not be able to get to a Sure Start in the town centre. The town is going to be like a ghost town.

A: There is a misunderstanding about what our debt it. Of the £151m about £71m is in a separate, housing revenue account and is ring fenced. £80m debut is for capital schemes – one off things that we need a large amount of money for. When we built the office block behind the Town Hall to help jobs in the town, the debt in this instance is serviced by the rent for the building.
The Government has stopped giving us money to help pay off our debt. When we went into debt we thought the Government would help us. All local authorities have debt for capital schemes. The revenue budget which is being cut, is largely separate from this debt. Only a small percentage of the revenue budget goes to pay off the debt

Core CYP4 (Early Help Model Revised)
Cut C09 (Cease funding to Gay Advice Darlington and for DAD Information Post)
Cut W03 (Library Service Mobile Library)
Core LLE18 (Concessionary Fares)
Cut W20 (Blue Badge Parking)
Cut C05 (Cease Vulnerable Adults Floating Support)
Cut Hu01 (Childrens Centres, Early Help and intervention - Specialist Family Support)
Core AH5 (Adult Direct Payments to Personal Budget Costs)

Darlington Association on Disability response