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Save the Key Centre and family support services

by adamboyden on 1 December, 2018

We are extremely concerned about the future of The Key Centre, in the Mount area, which is Frome’s last remaining Children’s Centre. This hosts Getset support services, activities and support groups for local children, parents and young people and it is under threat.

Austerity is not over. In the last month, Somerset County Council suddenly without warning cut funding for the Getset service as part of their ‘in year’ budget cuts. Staff have also left due to job insecurity. Why? The County Council’s budget is in crisis, after a 6 year Council Tax freeze and continued cuts in Government funding. We understand that a few months ago there were 5 or 6 family support workers at the Key Centre, and now we are left with one part time. Some services and groups have stopped.

The county’s new ‘consultation’ on the proposed changes to family support services will remove the ‘additional needs’ (Getset Level 2) service entirely. We understand this will mean no Key Centre staff will be left next year, well-attended parenting support and play sessions will stop, and families who need additional help with parenting problems will not get extra one-to-one support from Getset before statutory interventions for significant complex needs are triggered. They will be left to cope alone. Professional family support staff cannot be replaced by volunteers.

No one knows what the County Council has in mind for the future of the Key Centre. We cannot stand by and let this go unchallenged.

The support provided at the Key Centre saves families from crisis, and helps them lead better lives. It actually saves public money in the long term. How? By helping avoid statutory and multi agency intervention. It is a false economy and will effectively lead to increasing hardship and difficulties for already vulnerable families and children. Early intervention has proved to be vital in alleviating risk to children and families. Cuts here are counterproductive, driven by short term balance sheets, not long term needs, just like Somerset’s cuts to Citizens Advice funding.

But this is Frome. The Key Centre is  worth fighting for, our local families deserve everyone’s support. We have had an initial emergency meeting and are launching a campaign to call for immediate help.

We are demanding that Somerset County Council stops cutting vital funding, and stops ignoring the community. We demand they start to work with other councils, the MCA community association and other qualified organisations on a plan to continue the family support work based at the Key Centre. Somerset’s leadership will be invited to Frome to listen to families who have been saved by the Key Centre, and to hear the consequences of their actions.

We need as many people as possible to object to County’s proposal to abolish services for children and families with additional needs, at
www.somersetconsults.org.uk/consult.ti/Getset/consultationHome.

We need as many people to sign our petition at https://www.change.org/p/somerset-county-council-save-the-key-children-s-centre-frome, and we need people to help gather signatures offline.

We know objections and petitions will not be enough, so we are asking for help to find solutions, from Frome Town Council, Mendip District Council, our current MP and any other organisation or charity that can help. We want to work out how we can save and secure the Key Centre and the services it provides for the community. We need to hear from anyone.

We will be calling a campaign meeting in December. Please get involved by contacting the campaign at SaveTheKeyCentre@gmail.com or 07809 284817 or responding on social media.

Supported by:
Chloe Newport, Scott Ward and Sue Everett (the MCA – Friends of the Mount, Marston and Keyford);
District Councillors Adam Boyden (Parliamentary candidate), Damon Hooton, Claire Hudson and Alvin Horsfall, and Drew Gardner and Richard Pinnock (Lib Dems); County Cllrs Martin Dimery and John Clarke, District Cllrs Shane Collins and Des Harris, and Helen Kay (Green Party); Frome Town Councillors Kate Bielby, Pippa Goldfinger and Heather Wride (IFF); Dave Clarke (Chair of Somerton & Frome Labour Party);  District Cllr Helen Sprawson-White; Dr Bevis Miller (Mendip Trades Union Council); Steve Macarthur (Director, Frome Cheese & Grain)

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