“OUR main focus has to be on our children, young people and families who need support and face difficult challenges.”
Those are the words of Coun Ken Meeson as Solihull Council has today (June 1) announced the restructuring of its services for children, young people and families.
The consultation, which begins today, will oversee the ‘deletion of a number of current full and part-time posts’ alongside the creation of new posts and expansion of existing positions in a bid to ‘streamline the service and save over £1 million.’
More than 200 members of staff are expected to be affected by the reorganistion, with 35 jobs (particularly part-time positions) set to be scrapped and 40 new jobs established in the development of a new ‘Early Help’ offer.
The remaining staff have the opportunity to take on greater responsibility by applying for higher paid positions.
The move sees the council take a more ‘holistic approach’ to child services in line with the Government’s agenda on ‘troubled families’ – using early intervention from a single worker to establish a close bond with a family and support them, rather than passing them between a variety of agencies and services.
Speaking about the announcement, Coun Ken Meeson, Cabinet Member for Health and Wellbeing, said he was pleasantly surprised at how ‘on-board’ staff were to the proposals.
He added: “We’re looking at bringing the children’s service into the 21st century.
“As a council, we have a good reputation when dealing with family issues, but our approach has tended to deal with the crisis once it had occurred, while the priority of the proposed ‘Early Help’ service will be to help address the root causes of any problems, not simply manage the symptoms.
“Also, by taking taking an ‘all-family approach’ – looking at the deeper issues within a family, such as addiction, poor literacy or illness, which may manifest in a child performing poorly at school or shoplifting – we will, in time, reduce the need for the service and make savings in the long run.
“I understand that change can be difficult, particularly for the current staff who have been doing a great job under the existing structure, but we think we can do so much better under this proposed new service.”
Although there are proposed reductions in some posts, there will be an increase in others.
These will be on the frontline, working directly with the children and families who really need them.
Coun Meeson added: “We are hoping there will be no compulsory redundancies – if people don’t feel new set up is for them, then we are looking at early retirement or voluntary redundancies.
“We have been consulting with staff over the last year, so this consultation is not out of the blue, but it gives those affected a formal opportunity to have their say about the proposals.
“Change can be exciting, challenging, and even painful for some people, but it gives us tremendous opportunity to better serve those who need us most.”
The consultation will run for 45 days and involve staff across the various elements relating to children, young people and families, with the final structure determined at the end of the consultation on July 10.