Prior to the start of the report, Wendy Le, Democratic Services Officer, gave a brief outline of the Committee’s site visits to the Tilbury Children’s Centre on 21 January 2019 and 11 February 2019. In both site visits, the Committee was given a tour of the centre and had observed a Stay and Play session taking place. Play workers were on hand to support children and parents playing together. Tilbury Children’s Centre was the biggest Children’s Centre but other Children’s Centres were just as busy despite the size.
The Update on Brighter Futures Children’s Centres Service report was presented by Andrea Winstone which focussed on the improvements made to the Children’s Centres service following a review in January 2017. Services had always been available to parents with children up to the age of 5 but the new delivery model extended support to parents with children up to the age of 11. New services were designed as a result. There are a number of services that could be developed within the Children’s Centres and the service continued to look for new partners to deliver these services.
Nicola Cranch, Parent Governor Representative, mentioned that she had used Children’s Centres in the past and had attended short term courses which had resulted in poor retention rates. Andrea Winstone explained that Children’s Centres had improved in the last couple of years. Continuing on, Nicola Cranch thought it was shocking that 69% of parents felt confident in giving their children a healthy snack after attending a course on healthy eating. Paula Robinson said that this could be due to people’s understanding as everyone understood learning differently. Andrea Winstone added that parents attended the course without much prior knowledge on the topic so for 69% of those that had attended to have gained confidence through the learning was good.
The Chair declared a non-pecuniary interest due to her being a member of the Thameside Advisory Board.
Lynda Pritchard was pleased to see an improvement on the structure of programmes run and the buildings of Children’s Centres. There was a good relationship between schools and Children’s Centres. Agreeing with this, Councillor Hague felt it was important for Children’s Centres to support parents with children from birth to provide them with support and skills. Councillor Hague went on to ask how people were signposted to a Children’s Centre. Andrea Winstone explained that once children were registered with a health visitor, this would also register them with a Children’s Centre. Monthly timetables were sent out with the month’s scheduled programmes and Children’s Centres worked with 45 different partners. Referrals also came from schools, doctors and MASH.
Commenting on the success of the Children’s Centres, Paula Robinson advised the service not to overload staff with work. Andrea Winstone answered that Parental Outreach Workers (POW) were able to share the workload to ensure no referrals were turned away. For people waiting for a POW, they were assigned to someone until a POW was available.
That the Children’s Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee noted the improvements to the Brighter Futures Children’s Centre Services.