Labour to fight County Hall over slashing of Home-Start funding
New parent? Struggling with your new family situation? Live in a village without a car and feel stuck? Don’t worry: You can bundle your two newborns into their double pram, your toddler on the buddy board, your nappy bag on your back and all of that onto the bus so that you can access the newly expanded services at the Children’s Centre in your nearest town! (Oh. It took too long to change all the nappies and the bus has gone without you. Sorry.)
Not really what you want to hear, is it. Especially when there are volunteers trained to come and help you out at home, in all kinds of practical and emotional ways, organised by charity Home-Start.
But that’s what you’ll be told from December this year if the Tory administration of Hertfordshire County Council has its way. It wants to cut all funding to the charity, citing expanded services at Children’s Centres as its excuse.
The Labour group will strongly oppose the cut when it comes up for debate on 21st July. There are things you can do to help, like write to your county councillors, especially if they are Conservative. Scroll to the bottom for a list of actions and resources.
The press reports that Home-Start provides supports to 395 struggling families across the whole of Hertfordshire, with referrals made by social workers, midwives, health visitors, Children Centres, schools.
Herts County Council had been providing £390,000 to Home-Start (per year, I take it; I’ve been unable to confirm). That’s £1,000 per family, give or take.
I must declare an interest here: I have known Keeley, the woman featured in the Comet article, since her big boy Tom was tiny and they used to come to a playgroup I used to help with. She is a resourceful, community spirited and positive person. Helping her through the twins’ young years is one the best investments of that £1,000 of public funds that anyone could make. The programme has worked for this young family, and Keeley is already volunteering some of her time back to the community: she became a parish councillor in May. She thought she’d train as a Home-Start volunteer herself once the twins go to school, but that too may be lost unless the Tories at County Hall change their mind, or alternative funding is sourced.
I asked Keeley if I could use her experience for this piece. What she wrote deserves to be read in full.
And there are 394 other Keeleys, whose lives have been held together at a crucial time by their Home-Start volunteer-friend. And however good and expanded the services at Children’s Centres, I cannot see how it would stretch to frequent, valued home visits.
Judi Billing, deputy leader of the county Labour group (Hitchin North), said: “Referrals to Home-Start keep increasing. Why would you cut funding to a charity that helps people just when it makes the most difference to the wellbeing and future prospects of their families? Only a ridiculous set of priorities can lead the County Council to make these austerity driven cuts.”
Cutting funding to Home-Start is heartless. But it is also wrong-headed and counterproductive: how much would it cost the public purse to pick up the pieces if Keeley’s family had fallen apart? How much to care for her husband, for a start? How much in social worker time? And what price would you put on a great start in the world for the twins?
More than £1,000 for sure.
Cllr Deborah Segalini
- Do you think that helping people in Keeley’s situation should be something that we as citizens should provide for one another? Do you think that a sensible way of funding it should be through the money we hold in common to buy services for Children Schools and Families? Then sign this petition to ask Herts. County Council to formally tender for a Home Visiting Service.
- Email your county councillor. Feel free to link to or use anything on this page.