The results of the ten week Somerset Family Support Service and Children’s Centre Consultation has now been made public. The 47 page report produced by the independent body “Dialogue” was seen by the Council’s Scrutiny Committee in County Hall last Friday.
West Somerset Branch Secretary Kathrine See has studied the report and says “The report not only contains scepticism of the questionnaire and consultation process itself, but a huge amount of concern, mistrust and public criticism of the proposals regarding the future of Children’s Centres and services.The report clearly states that “In general people did not support the de-designation of the Children’s Centres” and “Participants overwhelmingly believed that services should continue to be delivered through Children’s Centres”.
Kathrine continued “The Dialogue report showed that there is a clear theme throughout the consultation results where respondents are critical of the decrease in services operating from the Children’s Centres over the last few years. The public also showed a strong desire for more information about what the proposed new service model would actually look like, in order to be able to make informed responses.
As yet the Council does not have any firm plans or costings for how or where any new services would operate. In the Council’s written response to the consultation result, it asks for staff and parents to help with identifying potential venues. Therefore, no potential impact on the accessibility and suitability of these venues can have been carried out. The Council’s Consultation included no specific questions regarding families with children with disabilities.
The proposed online services have also not been costed and there is no proposal for what these would be in reality.”
Labour’s Kathrine See, who has been leading the campaign to save Children’s Centres in West Somerset, attended the Scrutiny Committee meeting and questioned Councillors as to how the outcome of the consultation would change the Councils proposals. However, the plans remain unchanged and all 16 Children’s Centres earmarked are still planned to be de-designated with many of them becoming nothing more than extra space for nurseries.
Kathrine concluded “Back in October when I accused the Council of holding a sham consultation, the reply came back that they were in fact, gathering lots of useful information. However, here we are with the damning report in our hands and the Council intends to carry on with its original plans regardless. We now face the appalling situation where the people who felt strongly enough to get involved with the consultation process will realise that their voices have been ignored. Even more worryingly it appears that the Council does not have any actual concrete and costed plans for what would be on offer in replacement for the Children’s Centres, yet they plan to forge ahead with the decision to de-designate them”.
The Council’s Cabinet will meet on February 12th to formally adopt the proposals.