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Children’s services given ‘stay of execution’

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CHILDREN’S services at the Key Centre in Frome that faced the axe by Somerset County Council look set to be given a reprieve.

The county council recently held a public consultation on the future of  the council’s getset services, proposing that their ‘level 2’ services that offer support to families who have ‘additional needs’ come to an end. 

The news caused users of the Key Centre to launch a campaign as they feared losing these services would lead to the closure of the centre.

But following the consultation, which saw over 700 people take part, officers of Somerset County Council have recommended that the getset ‘level 2’ services be retained until March 2020. The recommendation will be presented to the full cabinet for decision on 11th February.

However, despite the good news, supporters of the Key Centre are worried about the number of staff still in post available to support the services across the county as many resigned from their role due to the uncertain future of the services.

Somerset County councillor, Martin Dimery, told Frome Times, “”Getset level 2 has been given a stay of execution until March 2020. This is better news than was expected, but with staffing levels limited to the equivalent of 11 full time members across the entire county, there will be severe strain on the service provided. 

“I was reassured that each Somerset centre will receive an equal share of support. This means the Key Centre can continue to host the provision, and we have over a year to plan for the future. The centre is in no long- term danger of closure, and with cross-council support in Frome, we can help to keep it as an active community resource.”

Mendip District councillor, Adam Boyden, who supported the campaign to save the centre, told Frome Times, “It’s good news. We are hopeful that the cabinet will agree with the recommendations at their next meeting. It was nice to see that the officers involved had taken notice of what people had said and agreed that there are no alternatives in place for the getset level 2 service – there is a point to responding to these consultations.  For the Key Centre this means that the services will remain – but I am concerned about the staffing levels there as staff have left, or are leaving, as they could see the writing on the wall.

“If the cabinet approve the recommendations, we will need to see what they do to replace the staff that have left. It is important that the families of Frome get the support that they deserve. So there is still work and lobbying to do.

“Also, the county council would then have a year to explore whether to keep or replace the services so that sufficient help and support is available to families in need.”

If the recommendations are approved by cabinet, Somerset County Council officers will use the reprieve to explore how the getset ‘level 2’ services could be replicated by working with key partners such as health, police, district councils and the voluntary sector. 

Councillor Frances Nicholson, county council cabinet member for children and families said, “We know this is of interest to a lot of people and I thank everyone who took part in the consultation.

“The financial realities have changed and the way we do things also has to change, but we also have to listen. We are determined that early help in Somerset will provide the support families need and these revised proposals take on board concerns about an abrupt end to the getset contribution to this kind of support.

“It’s important to remember that the council is not the only organisation that provides this kind of early help support for families, there are many partners and organisations involved. Over the next 12 months we believe we can encourage help from others, particularly in the voluntary sector and in communities, to deliver this kind of support.

“This is already working in some parts of the county and we think there is potential for this community-based support to grow and attract other funding sources, becoming an effective and sustainable alternative.

“It’s also important to remember too that the support we provide when families have more serious difficulties would not be affected.”

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