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Paper 10 - 28 March 2003 Meeting

ASSOCIATION OF HAMPSHIRE AND ISLE OF WIGHT LOCAL AUTHORITIES

28 March 2003

HAMPSHIRE EARLY YEARS STRATEGY 2002/03

Report by Councillor Mike Roberts, Hampshire County Council

RECOMMENDATION

That the report be noted.

1. The Early Years Strategy for Hampshire has again been one of the leaders in the field. Additional funding to deliver the strategy has been received from the DFES and is now a sizeable funded area worth millions.

2. However delivery does not depend solely of resources that are allocated but the focus, tenacity and vision coupled with support for all manner of stakeholders to seeking to achieve proper and full provision in accordance with the Plan. I commend the Early Years Unit team for the tremendous work that they do. The same must also be reflected in the Partnership and their work.

3. That Plan is currently being evaluated and reviewed as all Plans need to be. A Day Conference took place at Marwell on 5 March. Bringing all parties who help deliver its projects and commitments to better understand the implications of proposals for their area of operation, activity and their part in seeking to achieve what the Plan intends is important.

4. It is only through such an approach where everyone can own the Plan that then enables its delivery to occur, sometimes not without difficulties but nonetheless with a sense of purpose.

5. The bigger the level of resources the more complicated and demanding the targets and the need for say the Districts/Boroughs to play their part in the Plan implementation. After some local, procedural and focus issues with a few Councils, which had generally been talked through and overcome, the processes are much more supportive of the delivery of the Plan particularly through Planning.

6. For my part I have been available to work with any of the Early Years team to seek to overcome through discussions, or in any other appropriate way, delivery issues or similar that occur. Some have been particularly difficult in seeking to realise provision in disadvantaged wards. I can report some light on the horizon but those facilitated ways forward have been surprisingly long and difficult in seeking to realise.

7. From 1 April new levels of support for workplace nurseries come into being which have been outlined. For my part provision for early years is equally an economic and workplace issue as a measure for family support. Such provision enables women, but necessarily solely, to work part time at home, at a workplace or for education and training needs. The workplace needs women to be involved and supported as the needs of the labour market makes this a crucial economic area.

8. Women should not be home based but enabled to pursue, within a balanced framework, any opportunity that they feel that they could achieve at whatever level. The addition of a positive policy for the workplace should be another building block in seeking to achieve that goal. It is also an area where there has only been limited success in talking through policy needs with key employers.

9. As the focus will turn now its attention to the workplace then Hampshire and Districts/ Boroughs need to make sure that their own policy for early years provision for staff is robust. If it is not focussed on needs, provision and resources then achieving the confidence of key employers locally will be difficult.

10. In addition, from the same date, more rights for all partners are also established which will put even more pressure on the Plan and its delivery. The delivery of Local Strategic Plans, Community Plans and responding to Health inequalities shows that early years is not just a narrow policy area but a pivotal part of a multi-faceted holistic approach. To some quite concerning and difficult policy areas.

11. In conclusion, being involved in Early Years is exciting and tremendously rewarding and with the support of all the key stakeholders we can really make a difference to many parents and communities. However, as I have indicated the challenges in delivering the Plan and what is expected of us by Government, and indeed the EU, grows ever more but we have demonstrated in Hampshire that we are capable of achieving much together.

COUNCILLOR MIKE ROBERTS
Hampshire County Council

Date: 7 March 2003
Annex: 0
Contact: Councillor Mike Roberts tel. 01252 345737 email ymlamr@hants.gov.uk

Last update: 18/03/2003
Author: Nick Goulder, Policy Manager

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