Overhaul to reduce number of children taken into care

Children's centres to become family centres and offer more support.

Children's centres to become family centres and offer more support. - Credit: Archant

THE vital work of children’s centres is being overhauled to try to reduce the number of children being taken into care.

North Somerset Council wants to provide more support to families and help them to support each other so people are not left isolated and unable to cope.

Children’s centres would also become family centres to make sure every family member is supported and the services tailored to better meet the needs of the communities they serve.

Cllr Jeremy Blatchford, executive member for children and young people’s services, said: “We are trying to help people become more resilient and not need expensive social work which we could have solved with a cup of coffee and a chat beforehand.

“Some people are lucky enough to live close to their parents, in-laws and friends, but these links don’t exist for a lot of people and they can become very isolated.

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“We want to make children’s centres relevant to the whole family and we want to provide services people need and want to use.

“We want to empower people to help themselves.”

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Children’s centre staff will be monitoring the needs of the people they support and the communities they are in to see what more can be done to help families.

Some new services have already been rolled out with a number of centres organising support groups for people with English as a second language as well as dads and kids events.

Activities like cooking classes could also be set up to give people tips on healthy eating and cookery.

Once the scheme has begun making savings, the council is hoping to open children’s centres up in the evenings and at weekends to support a wider number of parents and carers.

Cllr Blatchford added: “There’s no point having a children’s centre if it’s only open at limited times.

“We are aiming to have longer opening hours, if we can gradually make the savings and get the necessary funding because it’s incredibly expensive and it’s about getting the right volunteers.

“It’s going to take about three years to make the changes and the services will keep changing because people change.

“The idea is to start focusing back on the people and what they really need.

“We want to stress that we’re not making it harder for people to get social support or to take children in to care. We are removing the need for the service.”

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