The city council has now published its Sure Start plan and there is some comfort in it.
The government has provided the funds to meet the Conservatives’ pledge to double the number of health workers – there will be 60 by 2015, and I am pleased that a universal element will be retained at children centres.
It is vital to have parents with different experiences supporting each other and to have proper data sharing between services to ensure that help reaches those who need it.
But there are two areas PCC should review. The centres themselves, the bricks and mortar, have been much discussed, but staff numbers and their functions less so.
Outreach and one-to-one work with families which are not ready to visit a centre are critical.
This work must be maintained because the first 18 months of a parent-child relationship are the most critical to the child’s cognitive development, and if impaired can result in challenges in later life.
Although health worker numbers are increasing, the council has now voted to cut the number of Sure Start practitioners by seven, plus seven admin staff and seven receptionists, to save money.
I believe valuable staff members must be retained – our city needs them, so my first suggestion for the council is that it looks to establish a partnership to access additional resources.
Parent Infant Partnership UK is a charity PCC should contact immediately. PIP provides match funding over three years to enable therapeutic interventions for high-need families.
I have met PIP representatives and they could bring £300,000 to the city. There will be others that can assist, too.
Secondly, Portsmouth should consider registering births at children’s centres, which would make it easier for practitioners to reach those in need – as the experience of cities like Manchester has shown.
The council must also allow its officers, and those who use its services, the chance to add to the Sure Start strategy.