Early Help: Cabinet to consider new Family Support Service following public consultation

A Council report considering the findings of the recent early help public consultation and resulting recommendations will be published today (22 February 2019).

A report on the consultation findings by BMG Research, the Council’s independent consultation agency, is published as part of the papers to be discussed at a Cabinet meeting being held on Monday 4 March 2019.

The 10-week consultation, which took place between 4 October and 13 December 2018, asked residents and organisations for their views on options to deliver early help services to support children and families.

Cabinet is being asked to approve establishing a new integrated Family Support Service, which includes a network of 16 family centres across the county and ensuring that the 19 buildings, no longer being used for children’s centres, continue to be used for early years services and for community benefit. It is also being asked to agree an Early Help Strategy, which sets out the ambition of the service and how the Council and its partner organisations need to work together.

Full details of the results of the consultation and the recommendations made to Cabinet can be found in the report published here:


The new Family Support Service will consist of three area-based family support teams that will work in partnership with other organisations, particularly schools and health, to improve access to services and provide more joined-up services. Key elements will include:

  • A named key worker for each family who will create a team around the family to help them tackle the issues they face so they tell their story only once.
  • Investment in the Buckinghamshire Family Information Service website to ensure there is effective promotion of community activities together with information and guidance for families.
  • Open access to stay and play sessions for babies and toddlers at family centres.
  • Each school to have a named link family support worker to co-ordinate family support.

Warren Whyte, Cabinet Member for Children’s Services said “The Council is very grateful to those that took the time to complete the survey or attend events to give us their views.

“I am recommending to Cabinet that we establish an integrated Family Support Service focused on helping vulnerable children and families to avoid problems escalating. If approved, the service will be designed to be targeted at those in most need providing easier access and being better connected.

“We have listened carefully to our local residents who wanted more family centres across the county and I am very pleased to be recommending that Cabinet approve 16 family centres – two more than the proposal identified as the Council’s preferred consultation option.

“This new Family Support Service will be about far more than physical buildings – it will ensure we give the right professional support to children and families at the right time. We must be able to help people before their problems escalate and become harder to resolve. The Council has less money than ever before and must make every penny count toward helping those children and families most in need.”

The consultation was promoted extensively across Buckinghamshire during the 10 week period, including local press, radio, social media, GP surgeries, schools, libraries and faith organisations. Residents could fill in the survey online via the County Council website or complete and return a paper copy of the survey available at children’s centres and libraries.

As well as completing the survey, residents were also given the opportunity to attend a series of public meetings and drop-in events across the county to hear more about the proposed options and to have their say.

Alongside the Cabinet report, Early Help Review, the following appendices are also published:

Appendix 1 – Consultation Findings Report

Appendix 2 – Draft Early Help Strategy

Appendix 3 – Service Design Proposal

Appendix 4 – Site Locations Report

Appendix 5 – Equality Impact Assessment

The Cabinet meeting will be webcast and can be watched live or viewed as a recorded session here -https://buckscc.public-i.tv/core/portal/home

Early help services should provide families experiencing difficulties with the right help at the right time in a proactive way, before their problems escalate and become harder to resolve. With targeted support, families are able to deal with the emerging difficulties they face, such as domestic abuse, neglect and substance misuse. A connected approach to early help, with the Council working closely with its partner organisations, means families are far more likely to avoid future social care intervention. Evidence indicates that an estimated 31% of 0-19 year olds in Buckinghamshire may benefit from early help support, and the current service is not reaching all of them. It is vital for the Council to focus its resources on helping them.

For more detailsabout the consultation, go to www.buckscc.gov.uk/earlyhelp