The Integrated Prevention and Early Help service (IPEH) has been doing great work for many years to support children and families through a range of interventions and services, such as Children and Family Centres. The aim of the service is to improve the quality of life of children and families, but crucially also to ensure their problems do not escalate to the point they require formal social work interventions.
The programme has been a big success in West Sussex, and received national plaudits for its work. However, following a full council decision on its budget, the budget for IPEH is due to be cut by £3million in 2019-20 and £2million in 2020-21 – which will make a massive dent in its ability to operate.
UNISON is particularly concerned about the following:
- How a successful service has suddenly been alleged to not be meeting its objectives sufficiently to justified continued investment;
- How a review of the service can take place as quickly as was envisaged and lead to a robust set of delivery proposals that will not massively destabilise the service;
- The role of PWC in that review and their cost to the public purse.
UNISON has requested sight of the LGA peer review report on IPEH and has been assured by the Interim Director of Children’s Services that this will be available soon and will be shared.
Act in haste, repent at leisure?
UNISON has placed on the formal record our concerns with the Interim Director of Children’s Services and the Executive Director of CAFHE that the IPEH review is happening at too fast a pace and without sufficient engagement of staff and partners.
We also lodged concerns about the involvement of PWC; and raised concerns that it may not prove possible to invest the IPEH budget cuts into frontline social care if experienced children’s social workers cannot be recruited to West Sussex due to their being insufficient labour supply.
UNISON requested to speak at the Select Committee originally scheduled for March 7.
UNISON welcomes the recent deferment of the review whilst the Ofsted inspection takes place, and we hope to speak at the Select Committee when it is rescheduled. Our request is being considered by the chair of that committee.
When we know more about how the review will be structured we will be in touch with our members. Of course we will also support our members as and when we move into any period of formal consultation about the service.
You can help the branch in the meantime through the following: