The council has been reviewing all its services in the light of budget cuts and changing pressures from the government. Over the last three months, wide-ranging consultations have taken place to consider the future arrangements for the youth service and children’s centres. A review of the youth offending service has also taken place. Cabinet considered feedback from these reviews and approved a range of recommendations that focus on prevention and helping vulnerable families and young people at an early stage.
It was agreed that the feedback from the children’s centre consultation should be used to put together a revised portfolio of children’s centre services that Herefordshire families with young children need. Consideration will then be given to how other organisations, including the council, could be involved in running these services.
To meet the growing demand for nursery places in South Hereford, cabinet also agreed that one of the three South Hereford city children’s centres should be re-designated to become a children’s nursery. The Director for People’s Services will make this decision after further work has been carried out to determine which centre is the more appropriate.
In relation to youth services, it was agreed that funding needs to be prioritised so that targeted support is provided to the county’s most vulnerable young people. Positive activities for young people that can be accessed by all will be delivered in partnership with the local community and funding will be made available to support this.
The council’s Outdoor Education Service will, over the next few months, be subjected to market testing to see if it can operate without public funding. A final decision will be taken next spring.
And Youth Offending Services from Herefordshire, Worcestershire, Shropshire and Telford and Wrekin will come together to provide a single service for West Mercia.
Councillor Patricia Morgan, cabinet member for health and wellbeing, said: “The council continues to face significant financial challenges so we have to rethink the way we provide services across the county. We have to get our priorities right and make sure we look after our most vulnerable children, families and young people.
“These recommendations are all about making sure our families and our most vulnerable youngsters get the services and support they need to help them prosper and become independent citizens.
“We want to see all our services continue, but we have to use our money wisely. Unlike other authorities, we are not talking about closing centres down, but about providing services differently.”