At yesterday’s Children’s Services Cabinet Pane, 40 angry and incredulous Homestart managers, Chairs, volunteers and clients heard the Conservative members of the Children’s Services Cabinet Panel support the complete cut of support to the 9 HomeStart Branches in the county, worth £395,000 per annum from September 2015 as recommended by officials. In so doing they voted down a motion from the Liberal Democrats that they should go to tender so that they could judge the relative value of the services HomeStart provide before making any final decision.
HomeStart provides targeted support to over 700 families referred to it by Children’s Centres, Health Visitors, GPs, social workers and self-referrers. The common thread about these families, whatever issues they present, is that they are unable to access the services provided by these very professionals. It is claimed that in some unexplained way, apart from setting targets, these professionals will now fill the gap left by HomeStart. Without this core funding, many of the HomeStart branches face financial crisis and may not be able to continue.
“This is a dark day.” Mark Watkin, Liberal Democrat opposition Spokesperson for Children’s Services commented. “I have never been so angry about such a misguided decision. The officers conceded that HomeStart does exceptional work and stops many troubled families slipping into the need for greater expensive support from the Police, Social Workers or in some case Mental Health organisations. These are desperate families and without HomeStart support they will struggle. The County makes great play about early intervention and accessing hard-to-reach families, yet they will destroy a high quality of dedicated professionally led volunteers with little regard for the consequences. They would rather cut this service than see if there are more economical ways it can be provided. I fear this may be the first of many short-sighted cost saving measures, because this is how it was presented, which will come back to haunt the Conservatives.”
Rob Prowse, Lib Dem County Councillor added “I believe the County Council has vastly underestimated the benefit families receive from HomeStart. It gives the support at an early stage to hard to reach families experiencing complex challenges. It is madness. This cut in funding will mean the end of HomeStart in many areas. A tragedy for young families. “