A complete lack of communication has angered Waverley Borough Councillor Paul Follows, but his anger is matched by others around the county.
Everyone agrees that most of the centres did incredible work, and for many parents, it was a lifeline due to the help and advice offered close to home. Friendships were made and support given. Now, as the centre’s close staff and users say they are ‘devastated.’
A new model adopted by Surrey County Council will see its staff going out to families, which inevitably means, many struggling families will fall through the net – until they end up in crisis and come to the attention of overloaded children’s services. This week
Louise Goldsmith announced she is to step down after almost ten years as Leader of West Sussex County Council.
The announcement yesterday comes a week after it was revealed that the Chief Executive Nathan Elvery ‘is currently away from duties.’ with no further explanation provided as to why.
Meanwhile, reports have now been published by the BBC and Local Government Chronicle suggesting the authority is facing losing control of its children’s services after not improving enough since receiving an ‘inadequate’ rating from Ofsted in May.
In January, Surrey’s cabinet members agreed restructuring of 58 children’s centres to be replaced by 21 Family Centre models. This was passed by the council in February after many thousands of residents signed petitions of protest to no avail. The final total has since dropped to 20, supported by nine extra satellite centres and outreach work, after merging two Surrey Heath centres.
When Cllr Paul Follows, Deputy Leader of Waverley Borough Council, registered his concerns about the closures at the SCC/Waverley local committee, he said he had learned details of the closures from the staff, half of whom have been made redundant and not from the county council.
Cllr Paul Follows and Cllr Anne-Marie Rosoman (both Lib Dem, Godalming Central, and Ockford) asked for assurances they would be kept more informed of the decisions and changes of Early Help services. He now says he wants a meeting with Mary Lewis SCC’s Cabinet ~member to explain the changes and the impact. He wants to hear from anyone affected.
Cllr Follows told the meeting: “There is a little bit of frustration because many of us did request to be kept more fully updated on this matter as borough councillors. I have grave concern about the cuts.”
He said he had been kept more up to date by the staff made redundant from Haslemere Children’s Centre, and called for Cllr Mary Lewis, SCC cabinet member for children, young people and families, to explain the changes.
Cllr Nikki Barton (SCC, Ind, Haslemere), said:
“I’ve been really appalled by the lack of consultation and I haven’t been kept up to date at all.”
She said she was not able to support staff who lost their jobs because she was not aware it was happening and that was “really depressing”.
A tabled response to Cllr Follows said funding for the new Family Centre model is based on a new formula to establish the resources for each borough and district. Countywide there was a 35% reduction to the budget. For Waverley, this resulted in an overall budget cut of 51%. Officers said it was because Waverley previously had higher levels of funding compared to other areas of Surrey.
The response from Nigel Denning, lead, Early Help Transformation, said Waverley council had “declined the opportunity to deliver the new Family Centres” so this went out to tender with Barnardo’s awarded the contract. The charity is also running the service in Surrey Heath.
An SCC spokesman said: “The new Family Centres will act as bases for outreach workers to deliver support to families who need it most and closer to home.“Plans for new Family Centres and service provision are available on SCC’s Council Family Information website and it we’ve been engaging with parents throughout this process.”The total savings target from the children’s services restructure to the Family Resilience model is £63 million.
About 330 staff have left children’s services through voluntary redundancy or through the selection process. The new Family Centre model delivers services for children from birth to 11 years. One mobile unit has been retained.
Tandridge District Council and Woking Borough Council have chosen to run the centres themselves, operational by mid-November.
The new contracts for Waverley, Surrey Heath, Elmbridge and the Stanwell area of Spelthorne will run from January 14, 2020, until March 31, 2022.
Family Centres in Guildford and neighbouring boroughs and district – open and closed
Lead provider – Barnardo’s at Hale Primary School in Upper Hale and Loseley Fields Family Centre at Green Lane, Farncombe.
Closing: Christopher Robin Sure Start Children’s Centre Cranleigh (October); Elstead and Villages Sure Start Children’s Centre (October); Potters Gate Sure Start Children’s Centre (October); Tennyson’s Sure Start Children’s Centre (October);
The Wharf Nursery School and Sure Start Children’s Centre near ~Homebase in Godalming will remain open. (October).
Lead provider – Barnardo’s at Old Dean Young People and Family, Centre Camberley.
Closing: The Orchard Sure Start Children’s Centre (October ); Pine Ridge Children’s Centre (reduced service from September 1); Bagshot Infant School and Sure Start Children’s Centre (October); Mytchett Sure Start Children’s Centre (October); Chobham, Bisley and West End Sure Start Children’s Centre (July).
Lead provider – Woking Borough Council and partnership at Sythwood Primary School and Sheerwater Community Centre.
Closing: Horsell Village Sure Start Children’s Centre (October); Pyrford and Byfleet Sure Start Children’s Centre (October); St John’s Knaphill Sure Start Children’s Centre (October); Brookwood and Pirbright Children’s Centre (June).