Bid to give youngsters better start

COUNCILLORS have given their backing to a new strategy aimed at giving youngsters a better start in life.

Hartlepool Borough Council has developed an early intervention strategy in a bid to remodel its children’s services and keep children on the straight and narrow.

Senior officers say a key aim is to ensure that children, young people and parents can access a range of support services as early as possible and without stigma.

Early intervention is pre-emptive action to stop young children from going off the rails.

Services are aimed at improving communication, speech and language and providing support for mental health, emotional, drug and alcohol support.

The new two-year strategy was discussed by the cabinet committee at a recent meeting.

Key features include creating:

l A Central Information Hub

This will be the single point of contact for families to receive advice and guidance or support if needed;

l Early Years Pathway

This will focus on hotspot areas and ensure that every family with a child pre-birth to two years old will get specific targeted support;

l Locality Teams

These will provide services for families with children pre-birth to 19 with a focus on improving school attendance and poor parenting.

The two areas are Locality North covering the new Hart, De Bruce, Headland and Harbour, Jesmond and Victoria wards and Locality South covering Rural West, Burn Valley, Foggy Furze, Seaton, Fens and Rossmere and Manor House.

Labour councillor Jonathan Brash said: “The effect of early intervention cannot be underestimated.

“It is to be supported.”

The cabinet backed the strategy to get the best from next year’s Early Intervention Grant which is aimed at giving councils more “flexibility and freedom” in putting services where they are most needed.

But a report to cabinet warned: “Early intervention is not a quick fix and services will require consistent delivery over several years to achieve the desired outcomes.”

Hartlepool’s allocation is £7.1m for 2011-12 and £7.09m for 2012-13.

Members also agreed to commission certain services, the details of which have not yet been released, and to advertise a tender for the delivery of out of school activities for five to 19-year-olds.

Contracts for services will be offered for 18 months with the option to extend it by a further 18 months.

Senior councillors also welcomed plans to use specialist staff including speech and language therapists.

Independent councillor Cath Hill said: “When we commission services it is really important that we oversee how it is being delivered.

“Performance management is critical.”

Independent councillor Hilary Thompson added: “We know that early intervention works and helps youngsters in the long term.”

Labour councillor Chris Simmons confirmed managing the performance was a key aspect of the strategy.

He also warned there were no guarantees that the funding would go beyond 2013.