Urgent: Somerset County Council are asking for your feedback on cuts to vital childrens services. Have your say!

The recently re-named Sure Start childrens services are now under serious threat of closure by Somerset County Council. Perhaps by naming them Get Set and asking for public comments – with a deadline of 31st December 2018 at 5pm –  they hope to avoid the general public noticing that these vital public services will disappear without trace as a result of more swinging county-wide cuts. In a clear and concise blog, Women’s Officer, Chrissie Wilson sets out how just how important these services are for women, children and families in Somerset.  Make sure you have your say!

 

HAVE YOUR SAY ON COUNCIL CUTS

Somerset County Council  – GetSet Consultation – Closure date 31st December

 

The furore over £14million additional cuts to Somerset County Council public services is not dying down – and nor should it.  Austerity policies are hitting hard across our constituency. Here is a golden opportunity to directly express your views on a proposal to cut a specific service. You don’t need to be a user or a provider of the service to give your opinion.  You may also wish to use this chance to say directly to SCC what you think of their stewardship, overall, of services for the most marginalised members of our communities.

 

The Consultation

Somerset County Council is currently consulting the public on its proposal to close getset Level 2  a support service for the very smallest children and their families.   The full proposal, background information and online consultation questionnaire can be found here  www.somerset.gov.uk/getsetconsultation    Please read and notice how the consultation is framed. The impression given is that it’s a service not widely used across the county; that there’s a rather low level of need, low level of take up, and other agencies are often involved.  The document plays down its importance to the families who use the service and the impact it has on the community at large.

 

If you are unfamiliar with getset services  you could gain some insight into what a getset playgroup or support service could mean to the lives of families by reading the two short accounts – one autobiographical, the other fictional – on this blog https://getsetusers.home.blog  Then multiply that effect across the county.

 

My aim is to encourage as many people as possible to respond to the County Council so they are fully aware of the views and feelings of Somerset residents about the impact of these devastating cuts.  This proposal is about a part of getset but it’s a part which, if lost, will further entrench inequality and disadvantage in our community.

 

The Service

getset Level 2 is available for “Children (aged 0 – 4 with additional needs) & families who need a little extra help to tackle a problem or difficulty and achieve their potential”.

‘Additional needs’ is a term that, generally, means physical or sensory disability or learning difficulty

 

Over the last 12 months the service was used by 39 Parenting Support Groups across Somerset (we don’t know how many families would be included in those parenting support groups).    Also during that period approximately 300 individual families were accessing support and advice from getset staff.

Somerset_County_Council

Somerset County Council says:

“The consultation is open to anyone, whether you use the services or just have an interest in the way that families and children are supported in Somerset.”

 

The questionnaire seems to be aimed primarily at parents using the service;   representatives of organisations or groups; or members of statutory services. Although the  questions are limited by single choice answers, boxes are provided for respondents to expand their answer with comments and views. If you are not a user of the service but are ‘just’ one of those people who is interested in how we, as a community, support under-resourced families this is one place to say what you think.

 

Here are some brief suggestions of points that need to be raised with the County Council in objection to their plan to close getset Level 2 services

 

  • It’s a preventative service without which children /families’ needs could escalate
  • Families would then have to draw on more intensive & expensive services
  • These services would already be over-subscribed & overstretched
  • A worse case scenario could see more children taken into care – an expensive service with poorer outcomes for child, family & community
  • Further isolation & pressure on families – mothers, mostly, will bearing the brunt on their physical & mental health.
  • Particularly hard on single parents, young mums struggling with poverty & lack of resources. They are the least able to respond to loss of service.
  • Loss of service means loss of staff – 130 estimated – to other organisations or different work all together.  Their expertise and experience lost to the community.
  • In Frome at least 25% of the children on the Mount estate are living in poverty.

It’s likely that the Key (Children’s) Centre will close.  They have already lost their GP surgery and are the least able to respond to such a loss of local health & social care services.

 

You are likely to have additional points you want to make. Here is the opportunity to do so. Council staff who conducted the face to face session that I attended were very keen that people, no matter how tenuous their relationship to getset services, expressed their views in the questionnaire.

 

If you don’t already know it, it’s worth finding out the name of the County Councillor for your patch especially as the public meeting conducted by Mendip TUC on the budget cuts last week proposed the following resolution:

 

“This meeting condemns the austerity agenda of national government in general and Somerset County Council in particular, which continues to adversely affect the lives of people of Somerset and its environment.

 

We commit ourselves to work together to oppose these cuts and urge:

  • Both Local, District and County Councils to take immediate action to protect vital services.
  • All to lobby their County Councillors to rethink this current disastrous strategy
  • All to write to local papers to expose the impact in your area and who is behind it.
  • Support other Anti-Austerity Campaigns such as the efforts to establish the People’s Assembly in Frome.”

 

Time for action is now.

Chrissie Wilson

Women’s Officer

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