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Supporting Early Years Services And Addressing Deprivation.

14th December 2012

The Highland Council is leading the way in Scotland in improving the quality of life for children in the early years, for older people, and for those struggling with deprivation.

The Programme for the Highland Council includes the commitment to allocate 3million each year on measures aimed at preventing problems from developing and requiring spending at a later time.

Proposals for preventative services for older people were agreed by the Council on 25 October and on Thursday (13 December 2012) the Council agreed preventative spend measures totalling 2 million to support early years services and to address deprivation.

The recent Christie Commission report on public services found that too many Services react to social problems, rather than prevent them from developing. In response, The Highland Council is taking far-reaching measures in support of the Scottish Governments commitment to achieve change in service delivery towards a preventative approach - to improve outcomes for families, tackle inequalities and maintain financial sustainability in the face of continuing economic and social challenges.

The arguments for prevention are particularly associated with families and young children, especially under-five year olds. A childs life chances are enormously influenced by his or her early experiences.

By supporting the care and development of a very young child, the Council is supporting every child and every adult to achieve their potential, and reducing future demand on services whether that be, for additional support in school, social care, health and mental health, or even the criminal justice system.

That is why, the Council is seeking to:

Reduce alcohol use and smoking by women in pregnancy.

Reduce the proportion of low weight babies and increase breastfeeding rates.

Support parenting and good attachment between parents and their children.

Achieve earlier diagnosis of developmental and learning difficulties.

Achieve permanency quickly, if young children need to come into care.

The Councils proposals for Early Years services represent a commitment to achieve these changes and these outcomes. They involve:
a comprehensive roll out of parenting support;

the enhancement of the core, critical workforce for young families Nurses and Health Visitors, to ensure both that the core programme is delivered, but also that targeted support is available to the more vulnerable;

the enhancement of early assessment services;

and additional Family Support.

The Council intends that all of this is available locally, through Family Teams. These will be universal health and early intervention teams, incorporating our existing staff and these new resources, to ensure that support and services are available to people locally, in their own communities.

A preventative approach can also be used to support people at different stages in life, to address social deprivation and health inequalities. Some people experience challenges because of deprivation in their communities. Others experience challenges because of their personal circumstances which can include young people looking for work, women who experience violence, and people who provide care for others.

The Councils measures to address deprivation will therefore take a broad approach, helping support individuals and communities address these challenges. They include:
Health Co-ordinators to work in designated areas (Easter Ross, Fort William, Inverness and Wick) to support communities and local people to engage in positive health promotion activities, to reduce health inequalities.
A focus on supporting healthy weight interventions in these communities, including through Community Dieticians and existing local groups.
The roll out of new collaborative arrangements to prevent violence against women, develop safety plans, and provide interventions to support women and families at high and medium risk.
Support for carers and young carers.
Support for young people into employment, including looked after children.
Practical assistance for other job seekers, such as with IT skills, online access and mentoring.
Council Leader Councillor Drew Hendry, said: I believe this is the most far reaching approach to preventative action, of any Council in Scotland. We are bucking the tendency to think only in the short term. We are taking action to support the Scottish Governments commitment to make a transition from dealing with the symptoms of disadvantage and inequality, towards tackling the root causes. That makes good sense, and it is also the best use of the Councils resources.

Councillor Alasdair Christie, Chairman of the Adult & Childrens Services Committee, said: These are challenging economic times, and the Council has a role to help families and communities deal with the difficulties they face. These measures will help people to address some of the critical challenges in their lives, and will lead to better outcomes in the longer term. They will also prevent many social problems from developing.

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