During the recent consultations and surveys for the Pre-Birth to 19 service, that included the proposals to change the use of the buildings, there was over 700 people including parents, family members and professionals, who ticked the box at the end of the surveys indicating they would be interested in taking part in focus groups or other activity with ECC in connection with the Pre-birth to 19 and children centres plans.
The purpose of these events was to establish with these people what and how they would like to be involved in, and to look at ways we can include their views in an ongoing meaningful way.
The events had a variety of attendance – some very good, some smaller groups but all were very informative.
The list of events is below and crèche facilities were offered at every event.
|Date & time||Venue||Address|
|17th May Tuesday 12:30-14:30||Carousel||Carousel Children’s Centre, Chapel Hill, Braintree, Essex, CM7 3QZ|
|18th May 9:30-11:30||Northlands||Northlands Park Children’s Centre, Davenants, Basildon SS13 1QX|
|18th May 12:30-14:30||Northlands||Northlands Park Children’s Centre, Davenants, Basildon SS13 1QX|
|19th May 9:30-11:30||St Anne’s Children’s Centre||Oak Tree Centre on Harwich Road, Colchester, CO4 3DH|
|19th May 12:30-14:30||St Anne’s Children’s Centre||Oak Tree Centre on Harwich Road, Colchester, CO4 3DH|
|20th May 9:30-11:30||Spangles||Lower St, Stansted Mountfitchett CM24 8LR|
|20th May 12:30-14:30||Spangles||Lower St, Stansted Mountfitchett CM24 8LR|
There were excellent discussions over the week with some themes popping up regularly, below are the key themes identified and some actions ECC intend to take forward from these events and this information.
- How ECC communicate with family’s needs to be better
- Survey for children’s centres complicated, too long and hard to understand
- Open and honest feedback
- How families want/can be involved in shaping the future
1. How Essex County Council (ECC) communicate with family’s needs to be better
Suggestions on ways in which (ECC) can engage families better included:
- Use social media, face book, web sites and links, and online forums
- Links to peer support networks via family members (including offers to post information and questions on current social networks that could reach collectedly up to 4,000 parents/family members)
- Essex County Council staff visiting families accessing groups for informal chats
- Eye catching stands in local places such as supermarkets, public spaces to attract families into discussions on their experiences
- Advertise when we are going to be visiting places
- Digital portal
- Keep it simple as it is very easy to overload with information, use of plain easy to understand language
- Find and list children’s groups and activities outside of children centres
- Local community groups
- School fairs
- GP surgeries
- Essex play in the park events
- Open dialogue with staff and other professionals (nurses, health visitors, schools)
- Talk to young people
- Drop in sessions
2. Survey for children’s centres, complicated, too long and hard to understand
It has been highlighted at the events that the survey was difficult to understand and took long too complete.
It was felt that the information provided was written in a corporate style that was off putting to many and confusing.
3. Open and honest feedback
Suggestions were made that ECC need to feed back in a clear format that is easy to understand by all. This would allow for a better understanding and meaningful engagement going forward, this would encourage more family/ parents to want to be included as they will not feel out of their depth or unable to contribute due to a lack of understanding.
There was a request to present the feedback from the consultation in an easy to understand poster or similar format with a link to the whole document for those wishing to read the detail.
Also it was suggested it is important to understand what changes mean to local areas, rather than an overarching plan for the whole of Essex.
Keep the message simple rather than long winded explanations
4. How families want/can be involved in shaping the future
At each event it was explained that the team working on the Pre-Birth to 19 Health, Wellbeing and Family Support service would like to ask for a group of families across Essex to be identified to help ECC with the tender evaluation process to award a new contract for the Pre-Birth to 19 Health, Wellbeing and Family Support service . This means when the new service goes out asking for service providers to apply and tell ECC how they propose they will best meet the needs of Essex families, they will go through a bidding process called procurement, and ECC are keen to have a group of families involved in scoring a section of the bids for this contract.
There was great interest in this and discussions took place on how this process could happen in local areas, or in a single area. (ECC are still looking for more interested people to be involved in the process).
This will be discussed further when the details are finalised, but Essex are committed to being inclusive and will work as flexibly as we can to help parents to be involved in the process.
Another idea discussed in several sessions was for family/parents to belong to peer support networks in Essex. There were also some offers of being able to post information, feedback and future questions on the current peer support network internet sites and then relaying feedback back to ECC; this has the potential to reach many more people. Some people expressed interest in suggesting venues that could be used for groups that will meet the needs of people in rural or isolated areas. This included local knowledge of transport issues in some areas.
The Challenge prize was also introduced and explained that ECC are looking for ideas for projects and people to help judge the entrees – postcards were left for people to take.
Actions to take forward from this feedback are:
- Essex County Council to work with a group of parents/families to ensure consultation results and outcome are fed back in easy to understand formats and easy to access.
- Talk to those who would like to take part in tender process and arrange briefing sessions and locations options
- Invite willing people to help with seeking out venues to ensure accessibility for groups as far as possible
- Involve family/parents members to voice their opinions by sending out questions on the network to be shared with wider audiences
- Staff from ECC to visit local services, with the intention of further engagement with those families attending groups or services to be able to better understand needs in each area.