Have your say on early help and children's centre proposals (deadline: 24th March)

Published on: Monday, 12th February 2024
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Residents are able to have their say on proposals for possible changes to Derbyshire County Council’s early help and children’s centres in a consultation that has opened recently.

The council’s cabinet agreed to consult on the proposed changes at a meeting on 1st February 2024. 

In common with authorities across the country, the council is facing budgetary pressures far greater than experienced before, due to factors beyond its control. These include dealing with higher than anticipated inflation and higher prices for fuel, energy and materials, meeting the cost of the national pay award set nationally but met locally, and the continued unprecedented increase in demand for vital adults’ and children’s social care services.

As well as a current forecast overspend for 2023-24 of £34.1m, the council has a predicted shortfall of around £40m in its budget for the year ahead (2024-25) which has resulted in the savings proposals being put forward.

The changes are needed in order to support the council setting a balanced budget. Around £3.9m needs to be saved from the early help service and children’s centre budgets.

The early help teams and children’s centres provide a range of services for children and their families. The buildings are used by our teams to provide specific groups and activities for the families they are working with. The buildings are also used by other organisations to provide support to children and families as well as the wider community.  

Derbyshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Children and Families, Councillor Julie Patten, said: “We have always prided ourselves on being a prudent, financially stable and well-managed council, balancing our books from year to year, maintaining a strong level of reserves and keeping council tax as low as possible, while providing vital, value-for-money services for our residents.

“However, we have made no secret of the fact that we are facing pressures like never before, and this is particularly acute in the services we provide for children and families. Demand for social care support for children and spiralling costs of private placements, that we have no control over, is costing the council dearly. Other councils are experiencing the same issues.

“We have to do everything we can to make sure we balance our books and ensure we continue to provide services to support the most vulnerable children. This means that we have no choice but to put forward these proposals which, if agreed, could help us to achieve that.

“We are proposing that we carry on delivering those services we have to legally, and also providing some direct help for families that need our help the most.

“I’d urge anyone currently using these services, and those organisations who also provide services for children and families to let us know their views by filling in our online questionnaire.”

The online questionnaire is at derbyshire.gov.uk/earlyhelpreview2024, and closes for comments on 24th March 2024.

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