Stoke-on-Trent’s S.O.C.C Campaign Challenges Newly Elected Councillors

The nationally recognised Stoke-on-Trent Save Our Children Centres campaign has begun to step up their activities ahead of the City Council’s formal Consultation exercise, which commences on 16th May.

Almost every City Councillor has been contacted by S.O.C.C leaders and urged to attend a public meeting to discuss the implications of a £2.25million reduction in funding to the much valued service.

The public meeting will take place outside the Potteries Shopping Centre on 18th May at 10.30am. Councillors and interested members of the public are being asked to gather by the clock tower.

The only councillor who has not been invited is Lee Wanger, who has a past conviction for accessing a website which contained indecent images of children which resulted in him having to sign the sex offenders register.

The email sent by S.O.C.C congratulates all newly elected councillors and asks them to consider their campaign headline “ËœEvery Child Matters’

The campaigners believe the 30% reduction in the Children Centres budget will have disastrous consequences for childcare and family support in the city. They allege that the cuts are severe and punitive.

The full email is as follows:

On behalf of the Save our Children’s Centres campaign may we congratulate you on your election to our council.

We know and appreciate the hard job you have and the tough decisions that you will have to make over the next four years. Quite soon, one of those decisions will be about our Children’s Centres. In the 16th most deprived local authority out of 356 we are amazed that, with effect from the 1st April 2011, the Local Authority has decided to reduce children’s centre funding by 30% which equates to £2.25m. This constitutes a “ËœSignificant change’ under Section 5D Childcare Act 2006, in service delivery across ALL children’s centres in the city. Because of this “ËœSignficant Change’ the law states that the Local Authority must now enter formal consultation of their decision.

The formal consultation period begins next week on the 16th May. As part of the consultation process we are meeting on Wednesday the 18th May at 10-30 am in the centre of Hanley outside the Potteries Shopping Centre by the clock tower to inform the public of this consultation process and also to carry on with our ongoing petition about these severe and punitive cuts. We would like to invite you to that meeting so that you can meet and communicate personally with the public at large about their views on these cuts.

The Save our Children’s Centres campaigners truly believe that EVERY CHILD MATTERS. Do you?

Could you please let me know if you will be able to attend?

Kind regards and best wishes,

Alan Lear,

On behalf of the Save our Children’s Centres campaign.

The S.O.C.C team are monitoring and logging all responses from the 44 City Councillors.

Their last email got a very poor response, just 26 of the 60 councillors responded and just 7 of the 26 Labour representatives.

With 34 Labour councillors elected at the recent City
Council elections, all eyes are on the ruling group in this their first real taste of opposition.

With an opposition in the chamber of just 10 councillors, the next four years could see more community campaigns come forward to challenge the ruling Labour group which will see a new era in the politics of the City.

National Award For Stoke Speaks Out

Stoke Speaks Out, which helps younger children with language and speech problems and which is currently under threat of closure as part of the £33m savings package, has won the Workforce Development Award at the Children and Young People Now Awards in London.

The awards ceremony which was attended by Education Secretary Michael Gove who said in his keynote address,

Gathered in this room are some of the some of the most inspiring, idealistic and impressive people in the country. The job that I do at the heart of government is made not just easier but possible by the efforts that all of you, and those that you work with, put in to raise attainment and aspiration and to lift the hearts of children across the country.

The City Council which is led by the Labour party, are currently consulting with the public about the proposed £33m savings that need to be made. The savings package includes proposals for Stoke Speaks Out as well as a number of childrens centres to be closed.

These awards recognise the excellent work being carried out throughout our children’s services and I would like to congratulate all those who won and were nominated. Helping our young people, in whatever way, is extremely important and these events help to highlight the valuable contributions made by the numerous groups and individuals involved in children’s services.

How do you feel about this important and now award winning resource being potentially closed?

Stoke-on-Trent Children’s Services Praised By OFSTED

Government inspectors have praised the work of staff involved in safeguarding children in Stoke-on-Trent.

A team from Ofsted made an unannounced two day visit recently to look at the work of the contact, referral and assessment services for children in need and young people who may be in need of protection.

A letter to the director of children’s services, Dr Sharon Menghini, singled out four areas of strength in the service, including front line services, the out-of-hours service and children’s disabilities team.

The letter also identifies a number of areas which the inspectors considered satisfactory, including child protection enquiries and the local Safeguarding Children Board, which, it says, ‘provides effective support, training and coordination of safeguarding arrangements across the partnership’.

Commenting on the inspection, cabinet member for children and young people’s services, Councillor Debra Gratton, said, ‘This area of our work can be particularly challenging and the report’s findings are a tribute to the dedication of the staff. The safeguarding of our young people is paramount to the services we provide and to be credited in this way is encouraging for everyone working in children’s services. I would like to thank the all the staff for their continued hard work and dedication in helping to make our children safe and secure in all aspects of their lives.’

Dr Menghini added, ‘This inspection demonstrates we have a solid and stable foundation in this area of our work. The inspectors were very positive and constructive in their findings and we will be working on the particular areas they identified for development.’

The inspection will contribute to the annual review of the council’s children’s services, which will be rated overall later this year.

‘SIGNIFICANT AND RAPID PROGRESS’ MADE IN STOKE-ON-TRENT’S CHILDREN’S SERVICES

SERVICES for children and young people in Stoke-on-Trent have made ‘significant and rapid progress’, a government report has revealed.

Ofsted inspectors today (Tuesday) announced services for young people delivered by Stoke-on-Trent City Council, NHS Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire Police and other partner agencies have:

  • Improved the safeguarding of children from ‘inadequate’ to ‘adequate’.
  • Improved the management of children and young people’s services from ‘adequate’ to ‘good’.
  • Strengthened the capacity to improve children and young people’s services from ‘adequate’ to ‘good’.
  • Maintained services for looked after children and children with learning disabilities as ‘adequate’.

The findings have been published in an Ofsted Joint Area Review of services delivered for young people in the city. The report focused specifically on weaknesses identified from a review published in February 2006 which found that children’s services overall were ‘adequate’ but that staying safe and social care services for children were ‘inadequate’. The results demonstrate positive progress and follow an annual performance assessment by Ofsted of the way the city council provides services for children and young people. Findings published last month (December) revealed safeguarding arrangements for children to be ‘adequate’ and the leadership and management of children’s services were ‘strong’.

Elected Mayor Mark Meredith said: “Ensuring our children and young people are safe and that vulnerable young people are given the most appropriate care and support are key aims of the council and our partners.

“Following the last Joint Area Review in 2006, which revealed the safeguarding of our children as inadequate, I and the government demanded significant increased investment into children’s services.

“The employment of Serco Ltd, which provides senior management of children’s services, along with the determination and efforts of our staff has thankfully improved safeguarding to an adequate level.

“Investment in our young people is a priority and we must work to improve the service to ensure our children and young people are safe and the most vulnerable youngsters are given the best care possible.”

The Ofsted report praises improvements to safeguarding children including:

  • Effective road safety awareness programmes which have reduced road traffic accidents involving young people to levels considerably lower than the national average.
  • Providing safe environments for young people through good regulatory inspections for early years services and good safeguarding procedures in schools.
  • A strong commitment to promoting healthy lifestyles through good action to tackle obesity, an above average rate of schools achieving healthy school status and the promotion of sexual health.

The report highlights examples which have helped improve services for looked after young people including:

  • Higher educational achievements for children cared for in small group homes.
  • A strong focus to listen to looked after young people and encourage their participation in decision-making through an annual awards ceremony and training young people to interview staff.
  • An increase in the number of care leavers involved in education, employment or training from 69 per cent in 2007/8 to 78 per cent now.

Inspectors found children with learning disabilities make outstanding progress in primary schools. They found that a multi-agency team has established clear plans to promote early mental health intervention and prevention. Findings also reveal that 100 per cent of young people have transition plans for moving to adult services, compared to 75 per cent in 2006/7.

The report also points to good prioritisation within the partnership, good arrangements to consult with and engage young people, strong council leadership and a good capacity to improve.

Council interim chief executive Chris Harman said: “This is good news for the council, its partners and the city. It reflects a lot of hard work by staff at all levels. We have a great team in place to continue improving services for our young people.”

Councillor Roger Ibbs, portfolio holder for children and young people’s services, said: “This is the second Ofsted endorsement in two months of the positive way services for our children and young people in the city are improving.

“The first annual performance assessment Ofsted report focused specifically on the work of the council. These latest Joint Area Review findings focus on the collective contribution of the council and its partners in ensuring children with learning disabilities, children who are looked after and children who are at risk or require safeguarding are given the appropriate support.

“The report shows that there is strong management and a clear focus to ensuring these key services continue to improve, and we are pleased by the progress being made.”

The Ofsted report also highlights a number of areas for action over the next six months including:

  • Improving the quality of care plans and personal education plans for looked after children.
  • Implementing a family support strategy to increase services for families in more challenging situations.
  • Further reducing the number of young people with learning disabilities not in education, employment or training.

The review took place in two stages – an analysis stage where Ofsted inspectors scrutinised evidence submitted by the council and partners, and a two-week fieldwork stage where inspectors met children, young people and parents, as well as service providers.

NHS Stoke-on-Trent Chief Executive Graham Urwin said: “We are pleased the report highlights improvements and in particular that the council is working effectively with not just NHS Stoke-on-Trent but all of its partners.

“We know we have many challenges but it was pleasing to note that even in the most difficult of areas, the inspectors have commended us.”