Narrow victory for ‘family hubs’ plan in Notts
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A debate broke out among Nottinghamshire Council members as they spoke about plans to implement the hubs and spend £130,000 on temporary staff to help with the proposed changes.
But concerns were raised that this would lead to “the wholesale closure of children’s centres”.
Coun Tracy Taylor, council children and young people’s committee chairman, said she was ‘very disappointed’ after the vote which saw six councillors ‘for’ and five ‘against’ the proposal.
It comes as the Government is promoting the use of family hubs ‘to address the early help needs of children, young people, and families’.
Council documents state family hubs ‘provide a universal front door to families, offering a one-stop shop of family support services across their social care, education, mental health and physical health needs’.
It is hoped the plans would be fully implemented across Nottinghamshire by April 2023.
It is proposed at least one family hub network will be created in each district in Nottinghamshire – subject to receiving funding from the Family Hub Implementation Fund by the Government.
Coun Steve Carr said: “Between 2010 and 2021, more than 1,500 children’s centres have closed nationally. I have huge concerns family hubs will be instead of, rather than an addition to children’s centres.”
Coun Andy Meakin, member for Kirkby North, said: “We feel moving to a family hub model would lead the wholesale closure of children’s centres across Nottinghamshire.
“It’s no secret that the budget of this committee is spiralling out of control – but we feel that spending just over £1million to keep Children’s Centres open is a price worth paying.
“Any closure of any service leads to dramatic consequences for most vulnerable families in this county.”
Coun Anne Callaghan, member for Mansfield North, said: “Clearly any focus on our children’s services is to be welcomed, but we need to be clear what we are actually getting here.
“My understanding is the funding is not yet approved and even if we get it it is not going to replace services which aren’t there.
“We are also very concerned about how much the level of need for these services could increase when we come out of Covid.”
Irene Kakoullis, council group manager early childhood services, said: “As someone who has been involved with children’s centres for a long time, I am extremely excited about this.
“We are going to have a lot more services brought under the umbrella of family hubs which means they will be talking to each other working together and making sure there is a far more coherent approach for families.”
After the vote, Coun Taylor said: “This is about this council making a formal decision to increase capacity in order that we can move forward with the family hubs project, in order that we can better support families and children in Nottinghamshire.
“I am disappointed colleagues don’t feel able to support something which will actually move this council to move forward on another initiative.”