Children's services - Frequently asked questions | Oxfordshire County Council

Children's services - Frequently asked questions

List of answers to common queries about the delivery of open access services.

General

Who will be responsible for the upkeep of the buildings?

Any community group taking over responsibility would be liable for the upkeep of the buildings.

What happens to the phone lines, Broadband, Wifi and IT in Children’s Centres after 1 April 2017.  

All OCC phone lines and broadband will be ceased as of the 1 April 2017 if there are no longer OCC services being provided at a centre.  Children Centre staff do not need to do anything – ICT will take care of this. 

It will be up to each Children’s Centre (the non OCC ones) to arrange new phone lines and internet connections going forward. This will need to be done in advance of the 1 April otherwise the centre will be without broadband and phones.  

If you use a school’s network then your broadband and phone lines will continue and you won’t be affected.  

The majority of ICT equipment will be collected by OCC once the centre is closed and someone will be in touch about this once a closure date has been agreed. This relates only to ICT equipment that is on the corporate asset register or has been connected to the OCC corporate network and therefore needs to be returned.  

It may seem an unnecessary hassle to have to set up new broadband providers and equipment; the reason is that we have to be very careful about data. The cleansing of IT equipment to remove data is a significant cost and therefore, in the majority of cases, buying new would be a cheaper option.

Multi Function Devices (MFD) are leased through Facilities Management and will need to be returned. This will be done centrally, Children’s Centre staff do not need to do anything apart from be available to arrange a suitable date when asked.

There are a few IT resources, such as stand-alone printers (not MFDs), internal cabling, mice and keyboards, and non-Avaya landline phones, that are likely, in the majority of cases, to be left in Children’s Centres, and the new services can use or recycle these as they wish.

Contact:
Sarah Hubbard
ICT Project Manager
Tel: 07500 953914
Email: Sarah.Hubbard@Oxfordshire.gov.uk

What if different centres require different services?

Each centre will have discretion to provide the services required in their area.  This may include partnering with other agencies to offer a broader range of provision.

Would there be opportunities for the county council to broker/facilitate discussions with other partners?

Yes.  Where links need to be made with agencies and other organisations we would be happy to support discussions.

Can you use the buildings for other things?

Yes as long as there is a children’s service provision we would welcome submissions for a full community offer.

What happens in an area where no groups come forward?

Where there are no interested parties and a universal service is not identified the county council will not seek to make any provision.

How can charitable organisations who want to support communities get in touch with the right people?

If you are a charity looking to support a community initiative in your area they please get in touch with localities@oxfordshire.gov.uk and we will put you in touch with the relevant group.  Most areas have an established steering group and are looking for wider stakeholder support to enable business planning to take place.

Can asset transfer interest be expressed in all centres including early intervention hubs?

Interest can be expressed in all centres which are not being used for statutory provision delivery.  Statutory provision includes the new designated Children & Families Centres and sites providing childcare, although some sites with childcare will have sufficient space for community initiatives as well.

What support is available to get a group together and help develop a business case?

Support for groups is available from OCVA with advice and guidance from OCC officers. Anyone wishing to obtain support for their group should contact localities@oxfordshire.gov.uk

What level of support is the county council providing? Can the council provide an assurance that assets (other than buildings) get wide consultation on disposal, including information to local members?

As part of the plans to move to the new 8 Children and Families Centres inventories of assets are being carried out at this stage to allow for the completion of the new buildings.  No decisions have been taken for the recycling or disposal of the assets within the centres.

Will OCVA help groups that have not been involved identify other collaborations going on?

OCVA are supporting individual groups and encouraging collaborations where possible.  If you want support from OCVA you can contact them direct at admin@ocva.org.uk or alternatively contact localities@oxfordshire.gov.uk who will give you the named contact person at OCVA.

How will statutory services share information with community initiatives?

The designated centres will provide statutory interventions.  If a community group wishes to refer families for this programme it should be done through the local children’s service.

Is there any help available to write a business plan?

OCVA are available to provide support to help the group to develop a business plan.

Is there any help available for setting up a management structure?

OCVA will be able to advise on the most appropriate management structure for your group going forward depending on your aims, objectives and sources of funding.

Is there are support available around employment responsibilities, how to employ, legislation, payroll etc?

OCVA will be able to advise on the responsibilities associated with employment.

What safeguarding support/training is available?

Oxfordshire Safeguarding Children Board offer a range of free training to groups and individuals working with children.  For more details visit http://www.oscb.org.uk/

Budgets

How do groups access the £1m transition fund?

The cross party group are currently looking at the process for managing applications for this funding and groups will be informed as soon as possible.

Will community groups be able to access the financial information on the costs of the current service?

Financial information is being made available on OCC managed sites.  For non-OCC sites groups would need to ask the school governors for the finances.

Will community groups be able to see the current running costs of the service?

It is not the expectation that the current service will continue, so financials for the service as it currently is will not be made available.

If the council are expecting universal services to continue why is there not the available budget?

Under the consultation proposals open access services will not continue and will be replaced by a new children and families service.  We are not expecting groups to replicate an existing service.

How will the rent for each site be set?

The rent for each site is based on a market rent for the use proposed; generally market rents for community uses are half that of the commercial rent that could otherwise be gained for the property.  However the actual rent payable will be established following a valuation which will take into consideration the various property matters such as the proposed community use, the length of term of the lease and the condition of the building.

In November 2016 the council agreed a motion that means the council’s Cabinet has been asked to waive the rent in circumstances where doing so would keep a centre open that would otherwise have to close. Cabinet will still determine applications for transition funding on an individual basis, looking at a number of issues, not just rent. The aim is still for community groups to develop self-financing, sustainable proposals, but Cabinet has now been asked to provide extra help for groups in situations where a business plan could not be approved without rent support.

How can community groups finalise business plans and get them in by the set deadlines without the relevant information in regard to rent?

There are two ways to approach this:

  1. Business Plans can be developed based on the indicative rental figures provided in May 2016 which would enable groups to bid in the first round of transitional funding or
  2. Groups can wait for later funding rounds which enables them to engage with estates team to establish valuations and agree terms of any potential lease determining final rental value.

Can children’s centres spend leftover money in the budget before the county council withdraws funding?

Depending on the type of Children’s Centre the following will apply:

  • For those in schools, we have allocated funding and would expect them to spend it therefore no clawback and no intention of clawing back
  • For the contracted ones, we have given the funding for the period under a contract so clawback of any unspent funds at the end of the contract will apply
  • For the OCC ones, budgets are held within OCC so any underspend will be part of the CEF directorate underspend.

Will you allocate transition funding pending grant funding applications decisions being made?

All transition fund grant allocations will be assessed individually and may in some cases may be in principle allocations if there are other factors to be confirmed at the time of allocation.  Groups that meet the criteria and have the appropriate governance will have grant funds paid to them in line with their application.

Can transition funding requests include premises which are not a children’s centre?

The Transition Fund is aimed at areas that wish to continue to provide some open access services where the current centre is at danger of closing under the Children, Education & Families transformation programme.  In most cases these are not delivered from OCC buildings and we would like to see services continue in the community including those in other community buildings.

Can individuals apply? For example child minders who want to start groups for their local community?

The Transition Fund grant is aimed at groups that want to continue open access children’s services.  The grant will not fund individuals or sole traders as it is aimed at community solutions that involve the community.

Will there be support available to ‘pre-check’ the plan before it is submitted?

Officers will be able to advise on the suitability of the plan prior to submission for grant funding. Please send any draft plans to localities@oxfordshire.gov.uk.

Agreement periods

How long will agreements run for?

At this early stage of the process, it is not clear how long agreements will last for. Following proposals of interest from voluntary and community sector organisations and parish councils, the length of agreement periods will be agreed.

What happens if you want to hand the building back?

OCC will work with the service deliverer to find an alternative provider or to ensure the service cessation is managed.

Operational details

What level of Public Liability Insurance will be required?

Groups will need to arrange Public Liability Insurance (of £10 million) and £5 million (minimum) Employers Liability Insurance.  Advice and quotes should be obtained from your insurance broker.

Who is liable in the event of an incident?

We are asking groups to have full responsibility.  Groups are under no obligation to run open access sessions but if they are unsure they are advised to seek legal advice.

Where would I go to seek independent advice?

OCVA (include name as a link on the website: http://ocva.org.uk/ ) is the voluntary sector infrastructure organisation in Oxfordshire and may be able to assist in advice on establishment, legal and employment issues. They can be contacted on 01865 251946 and admin@ocva.org.uk.

What support is available from OCC?

OCC is able to offer support to the establishment of groups, services and set up.  In addition there are a range of training courses that can be accessed and specialist advice from the new Locality & Community Support Team.

Is OCC going to fund or facilitate training such as parenting courses for community group volunteers?

The designated centres will provide parenting courses.  If a community group wishes to refer families for this programme it should be done through the local children’s service.

Can you provide clarification regarding provision of premises for those currently at shared/ childcare sites?

OCC is working with each site delivering childcare to develop sustainable proposals.

What is the council’s line of support in terms of picking up a vulnerable family with a universal session?

The designated centres will provide statutory interventions.  If a community group wishes to refer families for this programme it should be done through the local children’s service.

What is the interface between OCC statutory services and community universal services?

The designated centres will provide statutory interventions.  If a community group wishes to refer families for this programme it should be done through the local children’s service.

Health visitor funding – will OCC contribute to the use by Health Visitors?

Health Visitors are an OCC funded service delivered through a contract with an external provider.  OCC took over the service in October 2015 and the funding envelope provided to OCC for this service was based on costs at that time. Where no charge was historically made for services delivered in children’s centres any new charges will be a cost pressure for which funding has not yet been iddentified

Service delivery

What are the statutory elements of this proposed offer?

Under the proposals there are no statutory elements and open access sessions offered will be entirely at the discretion of the service provider.

Further information

If you have any queries that have not been addressed here or in the project document or are interested in starting discussions on future proposals, contact us.

Last reviewed
10 May 2017
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