Service users, Staff, Volunteers and Councillors alike were stunned to learn on Monday that a Conservative Councillor made the decision to cancel the £395,000 annual grant to HomeStart without any consultation with either HomeStart, the Health Visitor Service or the Children’s Services.
Monday’s scrutiny of the decision was the result of the Liberal Democrats on Hertfordshire County Council challenging the Conservative-run Cabinet on how and why the decision to axe the Homestart Service was made.
The Conservative Administration claims that the 270 families whose support the County Council has been funding will be adequately served by the network of Children’s Centres, despite the fact that they are already reeling from a £1.8m cut in funding imposed in May 2015. The claim flies in the face of the fact that the number of families being referred to HomeStart by these same Children’s Centres and Health Visitors has been increasing year on year.
County Councillor Mark Watkin, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Children’s Services stated: “I could not believe it. The families HomeStart supports are all assessed as having significant needs. Health Visitors and staff at Children’s Centres do know about these families but don't actually provide them with support.
“We are talking about families with serious issues such as drug and alcohol abuse, disability, and marriages at risk of breakdown. The crucially important work that the highly skilled HomeStart volunteers do is to build the confidence of these families to engage with the wider community and the services available to them.
“I find it incredible that HomeStart was never given the chance to present their cost saving proposals.
There is however, one small ray of hope: the Conservatives have now agreed with us that the impact of this decision must be reviewed within the next year so that the full impact of it can be assessed and, if necessary changed”.