Argyll and Bute Council has pledged to work in partnership with service providers to develop a new grant allocation system for vulnerable children and families.
That was one of the key outcomes of a day of information-sharing and discussion between the council’s children and families team, Argyll and Bute Social Enterprise Network (ABSEN), Carnegie UK Trust and 26 providers of children and family services in the area.
The ‘Making it Better, Argyll and Bute Children and Families Event’ was the first to be hosted by the Argyll and Bute Local Services Initiative (ABLSI).
It was designed to bring together commissioners and providers with a view to improving partnership working between the two and explore how services might be delivered in the future.
Councillor Rory Colville, Argyll and Bute’s third sector and communities spokesperson, said the discussions took place against a backdrop of concern about sustaining the best services in the current challenging financial climate.
“Savings are having to be made across all sectors and organisations, and Argyll and Bute Council is no different,” he added.
“The situation presents challenges to the council itself, to the services we offer and to our relationships with third sector organisations.
“It is our job to ensure that the situation does not impact on the services we provide to the youngest and most vulnerable in our society, and events such as these are extremely helpful in exploring all possible options regarding future service delivery.
“We accept that the council does not have a monopoly of wisdom on what can be done to meet these challenges. That is why we will be open and engage with all of our third sector partners to explore the best way forward.
“We will use the third sector forums run by Argyll Voluntary Action (AVA) to help disseminate progress updates and other information to key bodies – not least the vulnerable families themselves.”
A key outcome from the day was a commitment to work in partnership with service providers to develop a new grant allocation system, tailor-made for the current era of collaborative working, changing priorities and reducing resources.
Amongst the other improvements proposed were a central database for service provider information and better systems for communications and feedback between providers, service users and the council.
Carnegie UK Trust Development Officer Kirsty Tait said the theme of partnership has been strong throughout the consultation process.
“This work ties in with the nationwide public service reviews which are taking place at the moment and the emphasis on co-production,” she added.
“The Trust has been working on a series of initiatives in Argyll and Bute as part of its remit to support the development of rural communities. The aim of the ABLSI event was to discover whether we can find new approaches to service innovation to help sustain and improve services during a time of cuts and increasing actual costs. “
The feedback from the event was very positive, with participants giving it an average score of 8.9 out of 10.
When asked to highlight positive aspects of the day, those present praised an ‘open, honest discussion’ which was ‘very interactive’ and which ‘really got into the issues’. Other comments included that the event was not ‘protective or defensive of the council’ and that there was a ‘clear explanation of the council position’.
“I am delighted that those present were so positive about the event and its outcomes,” Councillor Colville said.
“If we are going to come up with effective, workable solutions to the challenges we face, then we have to have ever closer partnerships with organisations such as those who were involved in this initiative.
“Events such as this lay a very firm foundation on which we can continue to build those relationships so as to ensure the best possible services for vulnerable children and their families in Argyll and Bute in the future.”
A report on the event and its outcomes has now been drawn up by the event’s facilitator, Governance International. This document can be accessed at http://www.argyll-bute.gov.uk/making-it-better.