In accordance with Procedure Rules Nos.11 and 35 a period of 10 minutes is allocated for members of the public to address the meeting on any matter relevant to the work of the body in question. Individual members of the public may speak for up to 5 minutes but the Chairman or person presiding will decide how the period of time allocated for public speaking will be apportioned where there are a number of speakers. Members of the public are not required to give notice to use this facility. However, as a matter of courtesy, a period of 24 hours’ notice is encouraged.
Members of the public wishing to ask a question at the meeting should provide at least three clear working days’ notice in writing and should include the question with that notice. This will enable an informed answer to be given.
Ms Maeve Kelly, Friend of Cheshire East Children's Sure Start Centres, used public speaking time to ask the following question:-
At the February 25th Budget vote meeting I raised my concerns with changes to the children's centre provision increasing mental health issues. I would like to follow up on that point. Mental health issues are now some of the biggest killers of perinatal women in the UK (perinatal referring to the time before and after birth up to 5 years). A quarter of perinatal deaths are due to mental health issues with 1 in 10 being the result of suicide.
In recent weeks Cheshire East have said that the changes to the children centre structure of de-designating 4 children's centres in favour of a mobile service is due to reducing footfall and reaching rural families who cannot currently access the current situation. In a 2013 report from the Children's Society where they discuss the barriers of geography and low footfall, in their numerous recommendations, nowhere do they recommend a mobile service:
I would ask Cheshire East to confirm what research they have used to make the recommendation that footfall and geographical barriers will indeed be improved by the upcoming change to a mobile service? I would also ask that Cheshire East make available statistics over the last 5 years of both footfall and geographic location of families accessing children's centres (ie. urban, town, rural, etc.)? I would therefore ask for a commitment that if these numbers do not improve (and indeed continue to worsen) over an appropriate period that Cheshire East will un-de-designate the 4 centres?
In relation to mental health specifically, Tommy's the UK charity which researches pregnancy provided a report which examines perinatal mental health. In this 2013 report they outlined that 1 in 7 women experience perinatal mental health problems, half of which say the main cause is isolation.
The Friends of Cheshire East Children's Sure Start Centres believe that the movement from central locations within towns to a mobile service will increase feelings of isolation by expectant and/or new mothers. I would ask for Cheshire East to provide me with details as to what underpins their assumptions that perinatal mental health will not be negatively impacted by the change to a mobile service? I would also ask that Cheshire East make available statistics over the last 5 years of all the relevant areas of perinatal mental health (suicides, postpartum psychosis, chronic serious mental illness, severe depressive illness, mild-moderate depressive illness and anxiety states, post-traumatic stress disorder, and adjustment disorders/distress). I would again therefore ask for a commitment that if these numbers do not improve (and indeed worsen) over an appropriate period that Cheshire East will un-de-designate the 4 centres?
The Chairman of the Board, Cllr Rachel Bailey, briefly responded to the points raised in the question and undertook to provide a written response.
Cllr Liz Durham,Children and Families Holder Portfolio Holder responded as follows:-
The areas served by the four de-designated Children’s Centres are large and contain significant rural areas – much of the delivery within these areas is already delivered away from the Children’s Centre buildings via outreach groups and one to one family support rather than through the centres because the centres are not accessible to many families via public transport.
The commissioning of a mobile children centre is only one of a number of strategies to address these issues.
The mobile children’s centre will be part (but only a part) of a new outreach team which as well as operating the vehicle will run sessions based around the borough in non – children’s centre buildings.
The primary identification of post natal mental health issues is through the Health Visiting Service which has just moved to being commissioned by the local Authority (Oct 15).
As part of these changes Children’s Centre staff, Early Years staff and Wirral Community Health staff are working together to develop better screening and pathways to address Post Natal mental health issues as part of a new integrated approach to Early Years called the Parenting Journey due to be launched later this year.
This will also include looking to spread the availability and supporting some of the outstanding parental support groups that are currently operating in parts of the borough and developing targeted joint groups through Children’s Centres to support mothers with PND.
It has to be borne in mind that only a minority of parents of young children access Children’s Centre services now so any strategy to support mother’s mental health needs to be wider than just Children’s Centres.
Mrs Sue Helliwell, representing Alsager Town Council, used public speaking time to speak about health profiles for individual wards and noted that Alsager had the highest figures in respect of excess weight in reception aged children. She asked that the Board to work with the Town Council in order to address this issue.
Mrs Helliwell also referred to hospitalisation figures for self harming and asked how many of these were children.
With regard to excess weight in reception aged children, Lucy Heath, Consultant in Public Health, Cheshire East Council responded to say that the service worked closely with Health Visitors and staff around healthy eating as part of the “patient experience” and that she would be happy to work with the Town Council with regard to this matter.
In respect of hospitalisation figures for self harming, she stated that there was data available which was broken down into the figures for adults and children and that the service was focusing on and trying to address this statistic.
The Chairman referred to a paper relating to fast food, which had been presented to the Town Council.