New Early Childhood and Family Service

30 January 2019

Executive Director of Children’s Services, Sara Tough, on the changing needs of families in Norfolk

On Tuesday last week, our Children's Services Committee agreed to approve our proposal for a new Early Childhood and Family Service.  We believe this will have greater reach to those more isolated children and families in need of help and advice, through increased local support, easier to access information and crucial outreach work while continuing to deliver services previously offered.

The new leadership team within Children's Services, all parents themselves, combine their range of professional backgrounds across education, health and social care around a shared ambition; to deliver the best services we can to improve the lives of children in Norfolk.  I and my team, guarantee that every decision we make, will always be in the pursuit of this ambition.

This commitment means adapting the way we deliver services in response to the changing needs of Norfolk’s children and young people and yes, of course, new pressures on our budgets.  We ask at these moments over the coming years, that you trust in our ambition and believe in our agenda to transform our services together with partner agencies into one that delivers greater value to our most vulnerable young people, whilst responding to these pressures. It is change, that will allow us to succeed.  A failure to evolve in line with our new environment, would be the most irresponsible course of action.  This transformative approach is one we are implementing across all our services.

Change means that how and where you access our services will now be different, but we are keen to stress that support will still be available, to more people now than ever before.  We will be moving, not removing, some services into libraries, nurseries and community centres, alongside our 15 new service bases.  This means there will still be group sessions where you can laugh and play with your children, make new friends and access one-to-one support when needed.  Crucially, this more efficient use of infrastructure means money can be invested on delivering the services that we know are needed and valued by you to a greater number of children and young people, across Norfolk.

We remain aware that parenting for all of us can be challenging, particularly for those facing disadvantage through financial hardship, mental ill health, domestic abuse or family breakdown recognising that all families need help from time to time.  Being a parent brings fresh anxieties and sleepless nights and sometimes it can be hard to know where to access support, advice or a kind word. Our commitment to be available at these times will not change.

By working closely with our health visitors, we’ll ensure that families are getting the support they need following the birth of their baby while increasing our online presence through improved and updated digital resources allowing parents to access information they need on child development, developmental milestones and community activities.

I guaranteed that communities and volunteers would not be taking over the role of a professional service but let’s not forget them.  We do recognise the immense value and strength of our communities and their key role in complimenting the services we provide.  Empowering these families and communities to help themselves, by investing £250,000 in new ‘community groups’ is not a sign of replacing services but one of strengthening them further.

It has been fantastic to hear the appreciation of the valuable workforce who deliver services directly to Norfolk’s families.  We will be visiting these staff over the coming weeks, to provide reassurance that the success of our new service can’t be delivered without investment in, and collaboration with those trusted professionals who build meaningful relationships with parents and children.

Thank you for taking the time to read this article.  To those with concerns, I hope you can take comfort from our assurances to deliver the best services we can to improve the outcomes for children in Norfolk.  That will never change.

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