Plans designed to transform children's services and safely reduce the number of young people in care in Wolverhampton were approved by Cabinet last night (Wednesday 24 February, 2016).

The City of Wolverhampton Council says the proposals to improve early intervention services will help more children and parents stay together by tackling underlying problems before they cause the family unit to break down.

The plans will see the traditional children's centre model replaced with a network of Strengthening Families Hubs and outreach bases across the city.

New Strengthening Families teams will operate from each, offering help and advice on a range of issues including parenting, family mediation and relationship counselling, play therapy, behaviour management and child development.

The new teams will focus on children of all ages, enabling them to take a "whole family" approach rather than working separately with children aged 0 to 5 and 5 to 18 as is currently the case, while there will also be greater emphasis on providing help and support in the family home.

The redesign of children's services seeks to build on the good work that has already taken place in Wolverhampton to offer support at an earlier stage, better tackling problems within the family unit to help them achieve positive, sustainable change and ultimately reducing the number of children having to be taken into care.

Councillor Val Gibson, the City of Wolverhampton Council's Cabinet Member for Children and Young People, said: "We are committed to doing all we can to ensure that children are able to grow up safely and happily with their own families wherever possible.

"Providing the right sort of help and support in the right way and at the right time means that fewer children and young people will have to be taken into care - ultimately improving outcomes for them and their families.

"Already over the last 2 years we have seen a big reduction in the number of children in care in Wolverhampton - down from a peak of 810 in 2013 to around 670 today - and while there will still be occasions where children should be taken into care for their own wellbeing, we believe these proposals will help many more children safely remain with their families."

Hundreds of people, including service users, other stakeholders and members of the public took part in a 12 week period of consultation which ended last month, with the vast majority of respondents either agreeing or strongly agreeing that services should be redesigned to focus on those most at risk of family breakdown.

More than 20 participants also said they would be interested in becoming Parent Champions and act as advocates for families who may need help and support.

Councillor Gibson added: "I'd like to thank everyone who have had their say and helped shape these proposals, and I'd particularly like to thank all those individuals who, through the consultation process, have expressed an interest in becoming a Parent Champion.

"It is very pleasing that so many people are interested in taking on this important role, which will see them put struggling families in touch with services that can help them."

  • released: Thursday 25 February, 2016