Birmingham City Council has launched a consultation on a new and fairer system for providing early years services for children and families.
The new system is to be delivered by Birmingham Community Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust (BCHC) and will be commissioned by the city council. It is hoped the system will provide fairer and easier to access for families, many of whom find the current system confusing and difficult. It will also bring together the current health visiting service and the children’s early years service, creating ‘early years hubs’ and a network of community-based services where families can access the help they need from pregnancy until their child starts school.
Councillor Brigid Jones, cabinet member for children and families, said: “We need to target services towards those children and families that need them the most, and where they need them most. So rather than focussing on bricks and mortar we need to make services available at places children and families use the most – for example, having access points in GP surgeries.
“When we initially set out these ideas we had a very high level of support – about 80 per cent – and we also responded to suggestions, including having universal services for children with disabilities.
“The new system will provide a far more integrated service, so instead of having 76 different contracts, creating a widely differing service depending on where you live, there will be one contract with Birmingham Community Healthcare.
“Although we are doing this with less money than would be ideal, we would be creating this integrated service anyway as it provides a much better and fairer service than we currently have. And if we keep the system we presently have, it would inevitably lead to the closure of all our children’s centres, which surely nobody wants.”
The new system will mean:
- More outlets across the city, rather than simply in traditional children’s centres
- More flexible opening hours, including evenings and weekends
- Weekend working – there is currently none
- Citywide 52-week coverage – the service will operate through school holidays
- Access at all levels for children with disabilities – they currently use only specialist centres
- Minimise job losses by focussing on services rather than buildings
BCHC will deliver the new service in partnership with Bernado’s, Spurgeons children’s charity, St Paul’s Community Development Trust and the Springfield Project.
Gareth Howells, nursing and therapies director at Birmingham Community Healthcare, said:
“As a partnership of organisations currently delivering services in the city, we look forward to continuing our work with pre-school children and their families in communities throughout Birmingham. We are very pleased that we are to continue providing a universal service to all pre-school children in the city, supporting all aspects of health and wellbeing for the child and their family.
“The partnerships we are forming are designed to broaden that offer and give us greater capability to respond quickly to additional issues and needs as appropriate in individual cases.
“Our aim is to ensure that all of Birmingham’s children are healthy, happy and well prepared to start school, helping to fulfil Birmingham City Council’s vision to ‘give every child in Birmingham an equal chance to have the best start in life so they can achieve their full potential’.”