Nottinghamshire County Council believes families will enjoy an enhanced support service across its network of children’s centres as it names the preferred provider it has selected to manage them.
Nottinghamshire County Council has selected the following organisations to work together as part of the Nottinghamshire Children’s and Families Partnership, to take over the future operation and delivery of its 58 children’s centres:
• North Nottinghamshire College (expertise in education)
• Nottinghamshire Healthcare Trust (NHS) (health expertise)
• Family Action (family support expertise).
The consortium will draw their individual expertise together to provide efficient, high quality parenting and family support services for children aged up to 12 years old across the county, on behalf of the county council.
And a partnership board will meet on a regular basis to ensure quality, services and standards are met.
The announcement follows a year-long re-commissioning exercise of the county council’s children’s centres based on boosting services – and not on cost.
Currently, two thirds of its children’s centres (65 per cent) are already managed by external bodies. But feedback from consultation with families called for consistency across its services, which led to the re-commissioning exercise.
Coun Philip Owen, Chairman of the Children’s and Young People’s Committee at Nottinghamshire County Council said: “The decision secures the long term future of our children’s centres across the county. Families can expect an enhanced service which will be run under a single management arrangement.
“We undertook this process after engaging with parents who said they wanted consistency across children’s centres – so services that they could expect in one centre would also be available at another one.
“This partnership brings together experts in heath, education and family support – key areas where families need vital support and advice within our local communities.
“None of our centres are closing and this is a decision based on enhancing services for families and not on cost.”
Paul Smeeton, Chief Operating Executive, Health Partnerships at Nottinghamshire Healthcare, speaking on behalf of the Nottinghamshire Children’s and Families Partnership said: “We are delighted to have been chosen by Nottinghamshire County Council for the future operation and delivery of children’s centres which are so important to families in Nottinghamshire.
“We look forward to working for the safe and successful development of children in Nottinghamshire and working more closely with those staff from Nottinghamshire County Council who are transferring to the partnership.
“The Council has given all three partners a great opportunity to work together to bring a unique combination of expertise from health, education and voluntary sectors to offer exciting and creative services to more families and children in the County.
“We are excited to be able to take forward our shared ambitions and vision – “Strengthening families, building communities – making a difference in Nottinghamshire” for children’s services and to be serving the children and families of Nottinghamshire.”
With many pressures facing the modern family in the current economic climate, children’s centres provide havens of support, advice and care to all families of young children.
They have an ‘open door policy’ to all families of young children and recently it has extended the support to children from birth to five, to birth up to 12 years old.
For all families, the range of services provided at county children’s centres includes:
• Stay and Play Development sessions
• Breastfeeding Support and Nutrition and weaning advice
• Volunteering opportunities
• Access to Jobcentre Plus advice
Children’s centres also offer a range of support which can be offered though targeted support to specific families. These include:
• Parenting programmes and training
• Individual and home based support to families
• Behaviour management strategies.
Councillors at a meeting of the council’s Policy Committee on January 16 agreed to award a single operating contract for the management of all 58 children’s centres, following a year-long procurement.
Under EU procurement guidelines, there followed a 10 day standstill period before the outcome and the identity of the provider could be publicised.
The move has been taken by the County Council as it is keen to deliver on its vision for ‘all children, young people and their families to have the opportunity to fulfil their potential by having the best start in life, and have access to services where and when they need them most’.
Four bids were discussed at the Policy Committee following the final tendering stage of the process and members approved the recommendation to award the contract to one successful bidder at the committee meeting.
Confirmation of the successful bidder means that the Council can continue to talk to the bidder exclusively and will enter into legal agreements for them to operate and manage all of its children’s centres.
With the proposed new approach, there will also be close links to the new MASH service – Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub, launched last month, as the council seeks to benefit from stronger relations with partner agencies.