Union raises concern over council’s ‘means-tested’ proposals for family support services

Some parents may have to pay for family support services, a union has said.

Unite raised concerns that proposals from Cornwall Council could eventually lead to some parents needing to “pay for health visitors”.

But Cornwall Council (pictured) insisted there were no plans to charge for any health services for children and young people, saying the aim of the proposals was to “future-proof children’s services by meeting the gap between rising demand and reduced resources”.

The union said the council meets tomorrow to discuss its One Vision plan, which includes proposals to “introduce means-tested charging for a range of family support services”.

Unite said it is not clear exactly what the proposals mean and that it is concerned the proposal could pave the way for some parents needing to pay for health visitor services.

It acknowledged that managers of children’s services “do not foresee” families paying for health visitors and school nursing.

But the union added that there is no guarantee that future charging will not be introduced.

Unite regional officer Deborah Hopkins said: “We are at a crossroads in Cornwall as to how we look after and care for babies and young children.

“The prospect of means testing for such children’s services, including visits by health visitors, will be an anathema to the vast majority of Cornish people.

“One of the founding principles of the NHS in 1948 is that health services should be free at the point of delivery for all those in need – the proposals in the One Vision document are throwing these principles out the window.”

Health visitors usually work with families with children under the age of five and help with a range of issues including parenting skills and the development of infants.

Babies are offered development checks, sometimes known as health visitor reviews, from when they are born until the age of around two.

Unite said that a crunch meeting is being held tomorrow on the future of children’s services in Cornwall.

It said that around 235 health visitors and school nurses are transferring into a Cornwall Council integrated children’s service in April 2019, to work with a multi-disciplinary team alongside services for families and young people.

Who runs this service will be discussed at tomorrow’s meeting – and the union is urging councillors to keep the services in-house.

Ms Hopkins added: “We need to have the widest public consultation possible and keep our children’s services in the hands of the taxpaying public and not outsourced to a profit-hungry company.”

The council said proposals to form an integrated children’s services directorate, to bring together education, early years, community children’s health, early help and social care services, will be discussed on Wednesday.

The move “will provide a one-stop shop for residents in Cornwall, where they only have to tell their story once”, a spokeswoman said.

“The aim of the proposed changes is to future-proof children’s services by meeting the gap between rising demand and reduced resources, but at the same time offers the people who use the services a more efficient and robust service, which better meets their needs.”

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