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Questions about Gloucestershire's Children's Centres

Monday, 27 March 2017 08:54
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An anonymous parent from Bishops Cleeve has passed on the following FOI request regarding the County Council's changes to Children's Centres locally:

Request summary:
I have a number of questions regarding the Targeted Family Support Service and the process that was followed by Gloucestershire County Council to fundamentally change the provision that will be offered going forwards.

Are all of the Children's Centres involved within this change of provision defined as Sure Start Children's Centres, as per the statutory guidance for Children's Centres issued by Department for Education (DFE)?
Would implementation of the new Targeted Family Support Service mean that the definition of Early Childhood Services (as defined within the statutory guidance) would no longer apply going forwards?
Please can you provide details of other legislation that will no longer apply once you move to the new Targeted Family Support Service model?
Does a change in provision from a Sure Start Children's Centre to Early Childhood Services mean that going forwards Gloucestershire County Council will not be bound by other legislation; in particular Childcare Act 2006, sections; 1, 2, 3, 4, 5A, 5C, 5D, 5E and 98C?
Please can you provide further details of how the new Targeted Family Support Service will meet the current statutory duty placed upon local authorities by Section 1 of Childcare Act 2006 to improve the wellbeing of and reduce inequalities between young children?
Please can you confirm how the new model complies with Chapter 2 of the statutory guidance issued by DFE? In particular to 'ensure there are sufficient children's centres, so far as is reasonably practicable, to meet local need.'?
If it is not reasonably practicable for GCC to ensure that there are sufficient children's centres, then please explain why you believe this to be the case?
Please can you provide details of evidence gathered by GCC to demonstrate how the new model will enable you to meet your priority of reducing child poverty (Chapter 3 of statutory guidance issued by DFE)?
What actions have you taken to ensure children's centres offer differentiated support to young children and their families, according to their needs (Chapter 3 of statutory guidance issued by DFE)?
Given that the changes being made are significant and reduce services to the extent that they no longer meet the statutory definition of a Sure Start children's centre (as defined by Chapter 2 of the statutory guidance issued by DFE), please provide further details on how GCC complied with its legal duty to consult?

Please provide details on how any such consultation took into account:

Wider duties under section 17 of the Childcare Act 1989 and the Child Poverty Act 2010?
The views of local families and communities in deciding what is sufficient children's centre provision?
Families crossing local authority borders to use children's centres in their authority?

We aim to respond to your request no later than midnight on 11 April 2017 (the statutory timescale of 20 working days, starting on the working day following receipt of your request). We may need to contact you if the request needs to be clarified; this is to ensure we provide you with the information you require.

If the information you have requested is held by another public authority, we will inform you of this so that you can contact them directly.

Gloucestershire County Council is committed to the principles of information disclosure and will, wherever possible, provide all information requested. However, some information you have requested may not be provided to you; this will only be information that can be withheld by law, and, in most cases, the reason will be explained to you when we send out any information that can be released. We will also inform you as soon as possible if we do not hold the information you have requested.

Our response to your request may be published in our disclosure log, with your personal details removed. Our new disclosure log can be found on our website at: www.gloucestershire.gov.uk/foi<http://www.gloucestershire.gov.uk/foi>.  In future, you may find that the answer to your questions about the Council has already been published.

 

Open Letter to Gloucestershire County Councillors on Children's Centres

Wednesday, 08 June 2016 11:42
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On Tuesday 7th June 2016, Stroud Against the Cuts sent the following letter to all County Councillors in Gloucestershire, registering our opposition to changes to provision of children's centres in the county - many of which are having funding withdrawn with volunteers expected to cover. Links to previous coverage and further information are available below the letter.

  

Dear County Councillor,

We are writing to your to register our objection to the changes to provision of children's centres in the county, and to remind you of the compelling rationale for strong universal provision as a gateway of entry to additional support. Volunteers have always been highly valued in children's services, but it's unreasonable to rely on them and hold them to account for ensuring an adequate level of provision.

We feel there is still time to oppose these changes being approved by Cabinet, and we would ask that you use all means available to you as elected representative to retain universal provision. We would also like information on how the council intend to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of the new model, should it be adopted. We would welcome any opportunity to discuss these issues and the below information.

In the recent news release
, Cllr Paul McCain acknowledges this re-organisation is a choice between closure of children’s centres or a stronger focus on the most vulnerable children which suggests that this re-design of services is as a result of austerity measures and Conservative Party policies rather than a progressive decision intended to improve services. This should be of concern to the families in Gloucestershire and the staff tasked with its implementation for 2 reasons; first the way in which the consultation is using their views and opinions as a mandate for change without also pointing out the consequences of reducing universal services; second the  compelling research evidence supporting the policy mandate for early intervention supported by 3 government administrations since its adoption in 2003 following the SureStart trailblazer sites. This leaves unanswered the question which these policies set out to address which is how do we know who our vulnerable children are so that we can reliably identify, protect and improve their outcomes?

The Every Child Matters (ECM) Green Paper 2003 stated services provided through children’s centres were for all children not the most vulnerable and laid out 5 key outcomes which the centres were designed to achieve in order to address this very question following the tragic death of Victoria Climbie who suffered and died from the most appalling abuse whilst known to key children’s services. Based on robust research this policy was based on the premise that strong universal provision available to all families was the basis for knowing and being able to identify those families and the gateway to targeted provision for those who needed more support. More recently The Frank Field Independent Report on Child Poverty 2010; The Ticknell Report, Statutory Framework for Early Years Foundation Stage (2011); Early Intervention: The Next Steps (2011): An independent review and The Munro Review of Child Protection: Final Report – A child-centred system (2011) following the death of Baby P have endorsed this approach as an essential building block for improved outcomes for all children.

Parents and staff are entitled to know exactly what the risks to children are of re-designing universal provision which does not take account of the need to make the gateway to targeted services just as strong, robust and as easily accessible to all the children in Gloucestershire not just the ones we think might be vulnerable – because an over reliance on targeted services which this proposal is leading us towards has been shown to repeatedly fail and confront us time and time again with the same questions about resources service configuration and the ways in which staff intended to provide the protection all our children are entitled to are held to account for failing them.

Yours Sincerely,

Barbara Potter, Health Visitor experienced in working with Children's Centre partnership,
and the Stroud Against The Cuts committee - James Beecher, Christine Stockwell, Helen Prynne and Hannah Basson.

 

For background:

Read our contribution to the consultation

Watch a video of Neil Carmichael MP being questioned at Parliament Children's Centre.

Coverage of the changes:

"Funding for children’s centres in Stroud set for radical changes as county council pushes ahead with overhaul plans" (Stroud News and Journal, 2nd June 2016)

 

"Worried mums fear for Stroud children's centre services" (Stroud Life, 18th March 2016)

 

Letter: “Please support the campaign to save vital children’s centres” (published in Stroud News and Journal, 3rd March 2016)

 

Letter: "Children's centres are a lifeline for families" (published in Stroud Life, 19th February 2016)

 

Last Updated on Wednesday, 08 June 2016 12:00
 

Gloucestershire Children's Centres Changes - Stroud Against the Cuts response

Friday, 18 March 2016 10:48
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Gloucestershire County Council is currently conducting a consultation regarding the future of Children's Centres in the County. We have concerns about the lack of information about what the Council is proposing and the complexity of the consultation, and want to help people to complete the consultation in ways that will defend provision of services.

Two members of Stroud Against the Cuts - Barbara Potter and Christine Stockwell - have completed the questionnaire and their response is below. We hope it helps others to complete the consultation - though obviously your answers to questions about your personal circumstances or experiences will be different. You can fill the consultation in via this link. If you have questions or comments, please email:  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or text/call 07734 058789. We will respect confidentiality and are willing to publish statements from workers or parents anonymously.


Our objections to the proposals concern the attack on universal services and moving of services to two main centres - much of it is to be provided by volunteers and therefore provision is likely to be patchy and inconsistent as volunteers move on.  Underpinning universal provision was a recognition of the need that all parents/carers have for informal non stigmatising support from time to time.  Children's Centres have cut through the isolation parents feel and provided a local community network.  How will this work if parents have to travel long distances with small children to find such provision in the future?   The absence of universal provision by skilled staff trained to recognise children with additional needs will put at risk the identification of these children and provision for their needs at an early stage.


 

Q1. In which capacity are you responding to this survey (tick all that apply)

 

Someone who has used children’s centres in the past

Q2. How frequently do you access services through a children's centre?

At least weekly

Q2a. In which locality?

Stroud

Q3. To what extent do you agree that the proposed family support service should be for families with children pre birth – 5 years or pre-birth to 11 years 

Pre-birth – 5 years? Strongly agree

Pre-birth – 11 years? Strongly agree

Q4. What impact do you think the proposed targeted support service would have on the early identification and support for children with special education needs and disabilities?

Negative impact

Q4a. Please explain your answer:

Children will be missed as there will not be a targeted service in Stroud. The area is populated with families who do not go out to get help or know how to ask for it. The town is built over a long steep hill making the town centre along way from the top of town. There is new housing being built over the next two years to rehouse families. The area has had many families housed else where.

Q5. To what extent to you agree with the proposal to create 16 Children and Family Centres in areas of greatest deprivation?

Strongly agree

Q6. To what extent do you agree that a network of 30 Children’s Centres should be used for early education and childcare, other universal services run by the local community and as bases for professionals who work with families?

 

Early education and childcare - Strongly disagree

Other Universal services run by the local community - Strongly disagree

Bases for professionals who work with families - Strongly agree

Q6a. If you have any comments or suggestions about the proposed integrated family support service or services to be delivered from other children’s centres please tell us?

I think you need local professionals running all services. Staff who understand and can relate to us.

Q7. Which area of Gloucestershire would you like to give your feedback on? (please select all that apply)

Stroud
Q7f1. To what extent do you agree that the Children and Family Centres in Stroud should be The Park (Stonehouse) and Treetops (Dursley)?

Strongly disagree

Q7f2. Would the location of the proposed Children and Family Centres in Stroud have any impact on you and your family?

Negative impact

Q7f3. To what extent do you agree with the proposals that in Stroud, Fiveways, Parliament, Painswick, Nailsworth and Wotton children’s centres will be used for early education and childcare, other universal services run by the local community and as bases for professionals who work with families?

Strongly disagree

Q7f4. Would the proposed services offered at Fiveways, Parliament, Painswick, Nailsworth and Wotton in Stroud have any impact on you and your family?

Negative impact

Q8. If you have any comments or suggestions about the proposed 16 Children and Family Centres or the other children’s centres please tell us?

The staff need to be regular to get to know the families attending the centre. To understand the local needs. To build families trust and the families confidence. Raising children is lonely and mental health issues can arise having a knock on effect with the children and other family members. A qualified listening ear and someone to point you in the right direction can prevent a crisis happening. Suicide and self harm statistics in Stroud are very high. Changing the services in Stroud will impact families and could be critical in some cases. It removes a gathering space for community to make friends and support each other in challenging times with the help of staff.

Q9. To what extent do you agree that a new Parent and Community Support service should be created to offer advice and support to schools and voluntary and community groups?

 

Strongly disagree

Q9a. Please explain your answer

I would think the staff in a children Centre are qualified to do so and have years of experience. I have found them to be welcoming to all. Parent led groups would become a clic that others would be put off attending.

I would think the staff in a children Centre are qualified to do so and have years of experience. I have found them to be welcoming to all. Parent led groups would become a clic that others would be put off attending.

Q10. To what extent do you agree that the existing Children's Centres childcare facilities should be expanded to meet government proposals to increase nursery entitlement to 30 hours a week for 3 and 4 year olds of working parents?

Strongly agree

Q10a. Do you have any comments or suggestions about this option?

 

The parents in Stroud are unlikely to have a contract to qualify for the Nursery entitlement. Most people work on a zero hours 'contract'.

Q11. To what extent do you agree that a high quality public health nursing service should continue to work closely with other services to support families?

 

Strongly agree

Q11a. Do you have any comments or suggestions about this option?

The Health Visitor programme has been cut. 8 Children in my sons class including my son did a years education without being able to hear. There is no point in verbally teaching a group of children who cannot hear anything. It was a complete waste of time. Simple hearing test for glue ear and other hearing problems would have picked up this problem before they reached school if the pre school check ups hadn't been cut. It is very important to improve the nursing services and bring back regular childhood checks.

How many children aged under 5 do you have?

0

How many children aged 6-11 do you have?

0

Do any of your children have special educational needs or a disability?

Yes

Which types of childcare do you use (tick all that apply)

None

Please tick all the statements that apply

 

Transport is a problem for me


Last Updated on Friday, 18 March 2016 13:41
 

Press Release: Stroud Against the Cuts support lecturers on strike at Stroud College

Tuesday, 10 November 2015 13:55
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Press Release, Stroud Against the Cuts, 10/11/2015

Stroud Against the Cuts support lecturers on strike at Stroud College

Members of Stroud Against the Cuts visited the picket line at Stroud College today to show solidarity with members of the University and College Union (UCU) who are taking strike action over pay cuts and attacks on further education (FE). Lecturers have suffered a real terms pay cut of over 17% in recent years – with take home pay declining in value in each of the last six years. Trade unionists and their supporters say the strike is not just about pay – but about defending the quality of further education against cuts.

Robin Lewis, Chair of Stroud College UCU branch said: “We were asking the Association of Colleges for a £1 per hour rise which they’ve declined and actually the offer is a pay freeze. Clearly that’s quite derisory and caused a lot of anger within the sector, so we’ve come out on strike against that. In real terms our pay has dropped year on year – we get 1% sometimes, sometimes we get nothing and that’s been going on for at least four or five years now. Since 2008 we’ve had an 18-19% pay cut in real terms, so lecturers are starting to feel that enough is enough. It’s also in general about cuts in the FE sector. We have had some really drastic cuts and the whole sector is struggling now. Many of our class sizes have increased enormously – students are getting a much worse deal now from colleges because of that. Lecturers are more and more under pressure, the workload has increased dramatically – so the quality of provision is now starting to be affected by those cuts”

James Beecher, Chair of Stroud Against the Cuts said: “The government’s assault on public services includes a range of attacks on Further Education – and we must stand up to defend it. Stroud Against the Cuts supports Further Education workers and supports the strike. The cuts under the coalition have already caused redundancies – including here in Stroud. Class sizes are growing, courses are being cut and education is being undermined. Now the government is planning a further funding cut of 25% - potentially threatening nearly half of England’s sixth-form colleges and one in three further education colleges with closure.”

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: 'The current cuts to adult education budgets are a devastating blow to colleges and will change the face of further education in many parts of the country. Funding for adult skills has already fallen 35% since 2009, and the latest reductions could be the final nail in the coffin for some courses.  Not everyone needs or wants to study an apprenticeship, but colleges are being forced to prioritise apprenticeships over other kinds of learning. This will shut the door on many learners who use adult education as a springboard for improving their skills. On top of the reduction in budgets, the focus on rationalisation and efficiency through area reviews can only lead to a narrower curriculum and risks leaving many students high and dry if their aspirations don't match local economic priorities. Colleges need stable investment to continue to help people of all backgrounds fulfil their potential'

Notes for editors:

For more information see the UCU’s page on the dispute and strike.

Stroud Against the Cuts produced a video from the picket, from which Robin Lewis’ quote is taken.

On government funding cuts and potential closures see the UCU press release or “Education budget cuts could see closure of four in ten sixth form and further-education colleges”.

 

Last Updated on Tuesday, 10 November 2015 13:59
 

Student Assembly Against Austerity: National Convention

Friday, 20 February 2015 19:25
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"Austerity and all the hardship it causes has been sweeping this country since the Coalition Government came to power in 2010. Now we’re just months away from another General Election and the only ‘good’ that’s come from these unnecessary cuts is the movements that have come together to fight them and provide a platform for the ‘There is an alternative’ message. At the forefront of this movement has been The People’s Assembly Against Austerity, an initiative bringing together anti-austerity voices from across society, from trade unions and parties like the Green Party to grass roots campaigning groups."

 

So writes Sahaya James - one of the national organisers for the Student Assembly Against Austerity (SAAA), Co-Convener of South West Young Greens and a supporter of Stroud Against the Cuts. Please read the below article by her on the recent National Convention of the SAAA. If you are interested in local student activism please contact SATC via This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or Sahaya directly via This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

"The student wing of the People’s Assembly, aptly named the Student Assembly Against Austerity (SAAA), was born in August 2013 and first assembled at a meeting in November of that year. Since then they have led the successful campaign against the sell-off of the student loan book and co-organised the 10,000 strong free education march on November 19th. In September last year they also launched the Student Manifesto 2015: fourteen democratically selected demands from the student movement made to politicians and political parties in the run-up to the General Election in May.

 

On Saturday 31st of January dozens of student activists from 22 campuses gathered at SOAS for the Student Assembly Against Austerity’s National Convention to decide and discuss an action plan for the student movement in the lead up to the General Election.

 

The Convention’s packed agenda was centred around some of the Student Manifesto’s key demands and opened with an inspiring panel entitled ‘No more austerity!’, which heard from a range of political figures such as Green Party leader Natalie Bennett, Jeremy Corbyn MP, Diane Abbot MP and activists such as Stand Up to Racism’s Sabby Dhalu, SUArts President Shelly Asquith and Christy McMorrow, who has been leading a campaign for free education at Sheffield Uni.

 

Following on from this the day was filled with a series of interactive workshops on:

  • ·         Fighting austerity on campus: for affordable housing & stopping course closures
  • ·         Hardest hit: fighting cuts, bigotry and inequality
  • ·         No racist scapegoating
  • ·         We have a right to resist - #CopsOffCampus
  • ·         FE students and the fightback – bring back EMA and defend youth services
  • ·         For an ethical education – fossil free, no to war

 

The day ended with a closing session on ‘Students and the General Election’ that gave everyone an opportunity to feedback from the workshops they had attended, vote on the Student Assembly’s Action Plan for the coming months and hear from a panel of incredible speakers, like comedian and activist Francesca Martinez, Stop the War Coalition’s Lindsey German, Green Party Deputy Leader Shahrar Ali, the People’s Assembly’s Sam Fairbairn, NUS National Executive Aaron Kiely and Jonas from the Mexican student movement, who gave an emotional account of how the Mexican state ‘disappeared’ 43 students.

 

A recurring theme for many of the speakers was the ways in which racism and xenophobia had entered mainstream politics throughout Europe along with the austerity policies so many governments have adopted. With the rise of UKIP in this country, the importance of the upcoming Stand up to Racism demo on March 21st was emphasised repeatedly.

 

The Convention was a massive success with the majority of attendees being new activists, many of whom were very excited to take what they had learned back to their campuses, with dozens signing up to hold their own Student Question Time event with the support of the SAAA."

 

Sahaya James is one of the national organisers for the Student Assembly Against Austerity, Co-Convener of South West Young Greens and a supporter of Stroud Against the Cuts. If you are interested in local student activism please contact SATC via This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or Sahaya directly via This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

 

 

 


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