Today, I have released a video explaining why the County Council is right to change the way it supports families with identified needs. I want to make sure families in need get the right help when they need it most. Unfortunately, statistics show that too often those who need help do not get it.
Our County Council spends approximately £10m a year on its Early Help Services, which support families experiencing difficulties, addressing problems such as parenting, school attendance, budgeting, domestic abuse, mental health problems, substance abuse and neglect.
Evidence suggests that 31% of 0-19 year olds in Buckinghamshire may benefit from early help support, but are not being reached by current services. In the last year only a small number of families currently using the Council’s Early Help Services had an identified need, and when it comes to Children’s Centres specifically, only 5% of families with children aged 0-5 years accessing children’s centres met the criteria for help.
Over the past five years, the Council has seen a 53% increase in children in need; a 160% increase in the number of children subject to a child protection plan; a 14% increase in the number of looked-after children. These are children in the greatest danger of significant harm.
I think it is important in politics that we stand up for those most in need, and there is an absolute human imperative to focus on alleviating their suffering. It is vital that resources are focused on helping the most in need in the most effective way.
Independent research carried out by the Department for Education has shown that what really makes a difference is specific individual and group support. You can read their report here.
Public money should be spent in ways which benefits the most in need, and that is why the County Council is right to change the way it helps families.
Our County Council is currently consulting on how to best help to configure its Early Help Services. You can find the consultation documents here, and I would encourage all those with a view on this issue to take part.