Yesterday evening Newcastle City Council agreed their controversial budget proposals during a long, difficult Council meeting. The proposals mean reductions and in some cases ceasing Council services altogether. The Council also pays a lot of other organisations (especially the voluntary sector) to provide services through grants and contracts. The people of Newcastle and those who support them will have to get used to there being less help available. But what exactly will no longer be there, what alternatives are there (if any) and how can people find out where to go for help?
Children North East is in daily contact with families and young people who looking for help with a daunting range of difficulties - everything from domestic violence, childcare, accommodation, mental health, sexual health, drug and alcohol abuse, managing children's behaviour and so on. We always provide help and advice but we are not experts about everything and frequently help people to make use of other services. It is surprisingly difficult to know where to find the help you need and our staff know a lot about other services and often help people to make that first step over the threshold into an unfamiliar service.
We all have our pride, it's hard to admit we need help and it takes courage to take that step and ask, and we don't always know who to ask about any particular problem. Which is why it is so important that there is good information about the services available and that we get an encouraging response when we do ask.
In common with every other Local Authority, Newcastle City Council has an online Families Information Service where you can find out about local services (not just Council run services). It should be an urgent task for the City Council to update this online directory not only for families and young people but also for people (like Children North East staff) who are trying to help them.
At the same time I urge Newcastle City Council with its public sector and voluntary sector partners (i.e. Newcastle Council of Voluntary Service) to 'map' all the present services available for families, children and young people in the City - what they are called, where they are, what they do, when they are open, and crucially how long they will continue to be available. This will enable everyone to know what is being lost so we can plan how to fill some of the gaps.