To consider any questions which may have been received from Elected Members and which are asked pursuant to Standing Order No. 11.
The Executive Director, Core Services reported that he had received the following question from Councillor Kitching in accordance with Standing Order No. 11:-
‘On May 16th the news broke that Home-Start South Yorkshire had suddenly collapsed, with services supporting vulnerable families stopping from May 31st. Please can you confirm the details of relevant meetings that you and your colleagues have attended since that date?’
Councillor Bruff responded as follows:-
People Directorate currently commissions Homestart South Yorkshire to provide our Independent Visitor Scheme for children in the care of the local authority.
Under the duties of the Children Act (1989) , the local authority is required to ensure that children and young people in the looked after system have access to an Independent Visitor, who is a volunteer available to befriend the child and offer contact with a trusted adult, outside of the care system. Homestart is commissioned to recruit, vet, train and support volunteers and to liaise with Children’s Social Care to ensure the offer of an Independent Volunteer is matched to children in care as appropriate, particularly those likely to have limited, if any, contact with their birth family.
The value of the contract is £40,000 per annum and was due to expire on 30th September 2018.
With the planned end of the contract approaching and to ensure the most effective delivery of the service, commissioners had already begun to explore alternative ways of providing this vital service for some of the most vulnerable children in our care.
To this end, a model of delivery is being developed that will see delivery of the service brought ‘in-house’ to the Council. This proposal is subject to the necessary approvals but the liquidation of Homestart South Yorkshire has had the effect of bringing forward these plans.
Since the announcement of the liquidation on 15th May, repeated attempts to contact Homestart have been made by People Directorate commissioning staff. To date, there has been no response from any Homestart representative. We will continue to press to ensure details of volunteers are passed to us so that they can be supported to transfer to the new service and continue to visit the children and young people with whom they have built relationships. However, due to the lack of response to date from Homestart South Yorkshire, there have been no meetings held yet between the organisation and People Directorate representatives.
Other smaller value contracts are in place with Homestart through Area Councils, and discussions between Area Officers and colleagues in finance have taken place to try to ensure that no service users are left without service.
The situation in no way reflects the performance of staff, and it was unfortunate that the funding has been withdrawn from this organisation and many other small organisations.
Councillor Kitchen asked a supplementary question:- ‘ Is Councillor Bruff confident that the family services can step up to meet need, and what plans are in place to do so?’
Councillor Bruff responded to say that she was confident that the needs of residents will be met by the service, but no detail could currently be given as plans were still in development.