By far the most significant issue and debate at Herts. County Council today was our desperate attempt to lend every drop of support to our colleagues in Home-Start.
The County Council has treated them disgracefully. First of all, it promised a re-tender of their services in September, and then told Home-Start without discussion and with only two days' notice, that the Cabinet had changed its mind. After a very short transitionary period, all County Council funding is to be withdrawn from the nine Home-Start schemes in the County, and that’s that. Richard Roberts, the Tory Portfolio Holder for Children’s Services, repeats and repeats his absurd delusions that our Children’s Centres and Health Visitors can pick up the work, and that Home-Start is no longer needed. What nonsense, as the opposition Labour and Lib Dem County Councillors pointed out in many impassioned speeches.
Home-Start itself was well-represented by organisers and volunteers from all over the county keen to share with us all the vital work that they do – mostly with volunteers – with the most vulnerable and hardest to reach families in all our communities.
They presented their own petition and explained as clearly as they possibly could that all other agencies are suffering debilitating cuts and can’t possibly pick up the shortfall.
So a party that claims to support volunteering in the community is prepared to throw away all that goodwill across the County for the smallest, meanest service cut.
And the most ridiculous part about it is that we all know that the cost to the public purse of withdrawing this support from struggling families will be huge – in terms of social services, possible need for children to be in care, mental health teams supporting parents who could have got through ok with the help of a volunteer, some care, help and advice in the home visiting service and in the self help family groups that have already been cut.
What kind of politically motivated nonsense is this?
The County Labour Group has called in this decision to be properly scrutinised and examined for possible second thoughts. But the Tories wouldn’t even wait for that process to take place before agreeing their smug and ridiculous new policy.
We will work with all the Home-Start groups across the County and do everything we can to save their invaluable, inexpensive, caring and efficient service.
Herts. County Councillor; Hitchin North