Stoke Speaks Out Recognised As A Good Example Of A Multi Agency Approach

Stoke Speaks Out has been recognised by a leading national industry body for its work, Stoke Speaks Out is a multi-agency partnership aimed at improving city youngsters’ communication skills.

After being saved from closure as part of the budget cuts earlier this year, The Centre for Excellence and Outcomes (C4EO) has highlighted Stoke Speaks Out on its website as a good example of a multi-agency approach to tackling language issues.

C4EO provides a range of products and support services to improve outcomes in young people. C4EO has established itself as a best practice hub for what works in children’s services and is used by all Local Authorities across England.

Stoke Speaks Out (SSO) was initiated as a strategy for the city in 2004; ensuring all key agencies including the city council, health authority and voluntary sector, were involved and that they all had consistent, high quality shared messages. The partnership was multi-layered to ensure that everyone shared the same vision regarding early attachment and communication development and that everyone shared responsibility for this.

Stoke Speaks Out has been helping young people in our city improve their communication skills for a number of years and it’s great that all the hard work put in is recognised by such a distinguished professional body.

It’s great news for the service and for the city that we are being used as a shining example of best practice. We must now strive to continue this upward trend and make this the first of many services provided in the city to receive such recognition.

Between 2005 and 2010, training was delivered to over 4,000 people and includes speech and language therapy, early years, ante-natal and post-natal information.

Stoke-on-Trent City Council Approve £35million Cuts Budget

Stoke-on-Trent City Council set their budget today [Thursday] following a long and sometimes heated debate.

The motion in moving the budget, which includes cuts of some £35million and the closures of several key facilities, was eventually won by 40 votes in favour to 13 votes against.

In voting to accept the budget proposals, councillors have agreed to the closure of Shelton Pool, Burslem & Fenton Libraries, Park Hall Golf Course, 2 elderley care provisions and other valued services and public amenities.

Unless viable business proposals are submitted by community groups or social enterprises the city could also lose Ford Green Hall, the City Farm, Etruria Industrial Museum and the much publicised Tunstall Pool.

It was not all doom and gloom however as the council have confirmed that it is to retain all the City’s Children Centres, Stoke Speaks Out, Shopmobility and all Local Centres.

In moving the motion to commend the Budget, Council Leader Mohammed Pervez said that it was imperative that the council set a legal and balanced budget. He also confirmed that there is to be no Council Tax rise in the next municipal year.

Cllr Pervez told the chamber that it had been a long and hard road to get to the point where the cabinet were able to recommend this budget. He reminded the chamber that the council could not allow petty arguments to derail the process of agreeing this budget.

He said that the cabinet and the officers of the council had been composed, collected and considered as well as open and transparent during the consultation and the budget setting process.

Cllr Pervez reminded the chamber that Stoke-on-Trent City Council had been the 8th hardest hit authority in the country and that those councillors who had accused the cabinet of scaremongering should be glad that they had prepared for the worse case scenario.

The Community Voice group moved an amendment calling for a postponement in setting the budget as they believed that there had been insufficient Equality Impact Assessments carried out on all the budget proposals.

Community Voice spokesman Cllr Mike Barnes, said that the council needed to minimise risk and should heed the legal challenges relating to Equality Impact across other authorities across the country.

Cllr Barnes urged the cabinet to accept the need to dot every I and cross every “Ëœt’.

He condemned the documentation produced to support the budget proposals for failing to mention Equality.

Fellow Community Voice Councillor Mick Salih criticised the cabinet and council officers for not handing round the printed amendment to the substantive motion before the meeting.

He also stated that he was unable to support the budget because there were a number of proposals in it that were still under negotiation. He said that it would be wrong to pass an holistic budget when a large amount of the fine detail was not known.

Deputy Council Leader Ross Irving [Conservative] said that legal clarification was necessary and suggested that the legal officer should address the chamber and give his opinion on whether there was an issue with regards to Equality Impact.

Paul Hackney gave a long and detailed assessment of the situation and concluded that in his opinion the Council had carried out the necessary assessments with regard to Equality and that they has shown due regard during the budget consultations, overview and scrutiny processes and in the final proposals.

Community Voice’s amendment was defeated heavily.

There was a long, passionate, heated and sometimes angry debate in the chamber on the substantive motion of adopting the budget proposals.

The debate was divided between primarily those councillors in the four-way coalition parties of Labour, Conservative and Independent Allliance, Liberal Democrat and City Independent Group [apart from Cllr Dave Conway who refused to support the budget] and those councillors in opposition.

The coalition councillors condemned the opposition councillors, especially the Community Voice group, for playing to the public gallery and for not providing an alternative to the budget proposals.

The opposition councillors especially Community Voice criticised the coalition for not listening to the residents of the city.

Cllr Peter Kent-Baguley accused the cabinet of lacking political judgement and of having no clear criteria in setting this budget.

Cabinet Councillors rebuked the accusations by saying that the criteria was always to protect the most vulnerable and needy in the city.

This meeting was one of the longest in recent times. Passions and emotions were running high. Coalition councillors constantly referred to the need to accept the financial situation imposed on the city by the National Coalition Government.
Coalition Councillors also spoke about taking political responsibility and demonstrating clear leadership in formulating this budget.

Opposition Councillors spoke of the hardship that the citizens and residents of the city will have to endure as a result of these levels of cuts.

No matter what the political persuasion it was evident that the burden of public duty was wearing hard on all the councillors within the chamber.

The opposition councillors gave it heir best shot and the coalition councillors stood firm in the face of adversity and backed their cabinet colleagues.

We have a series of Audio Interviews to bring you.

First one is with Cllr Mike Barnes from the Community Voice group who explains why they were seeking a postponement of a budget decision. This was recorded before the meeting.

Then we hear from Matt Wright from the Socialist Party who explains why his North Staffs Against Cuts group were urging councillors to reject the budget proposals.

A member of the Socialist Workers Party was ejected from the council chamber during the meeting for causing a disturbance.

Next up we hear from Liz from Trent Vale who was also asked to leave the chamber for trying [very peacefully] to address the councillors in the chamber to get support for Shelton Pool and from a member of the action group fighting to save Shelton Pool.

And finally we hear from the four leaders of the coalition groups on the City Council, Cllr Mohammed Pervez [Labour], Cllr Ross Irving [Conservative & IA], Cllr Kieran Clarke [Lib Dem] and Cllr Brian Ward [City Independents] who give their reaction to winning the vote on the budget.

Stoke-on-Trent City Council Cabinet Propose Retention of All Children’s Centres

Stoke-on-Trent City Council’s Cabinet are proposing the retention of all 16 Children’s Centres after listening to public concerns and the 6000 strong petition organised by the Save Our Children Centre’s group headed by Millissa Beydilli.

Whilst the Cabinet are proposing to save the Children’s Centres, the award winning Stoke Speaks Out service, short breaks for the disabled and carers, the Merit Pupil referral service and 24/7 CCTV coverage, they have also confirmed their intention to close several key facilities.

Although the Children’s Centres have been saved Council Leader Mohammed Pervez would give no guarantee that staff jobs would be saved. He also gave an indication that there may be a reorganisation of the Children’s Centres management structure.

The decision to close Shelton and Tunstall pools, Fenton and Burslem Libraries and the Heathside and Eardley Care Homes was also announced.

There is a six month stay of execution for education establishments Ford Green Hall, Etruria Industrial Museum and Stanley Head whilst the council explores the possibility of the transferring them to a community trust or social enterprise.

The future also looks brighter for Meir Community and Education Centre and for Northwood Stadium.

The Meir looks set to retain their community centre after the council leader announced that the council was looking to transfer more services into the popular facility.

The popular service Shopmobility, located at the Potteries Shopping Centre, will also be saved.

Mohammed Pervez confirmed that users have offered to pay for the service and the council are happy to go along with that proposal.

Northwood Stadium is not closing at this stage.

The Future of the City Farm looks bleak however. The Council Leader, Mohammed Pervez confirmed that the council did not consider the farm as a priority and indicated that the council had no statutory obligation to deliver such a service.

The tender to transfer the farm to an independent operator was suspended amidst a dispute over the ownership of the land. Whist the tender is likely to be re-instated at some stage, the feeling is that there would be a lack of interested parties coming forward to take over what was consider by the Guardian Newspaper a top 10 free attraction in the country just a few years ago.

There was also good news for every household in the City.
The Council Leader announced that Council Tax will be frozen for the next year.

The City Council will take up the governments offer a 2.5% grant which will realise £2million to the local authority.

Mohammed Pervez said that this decision was taken because the Cabinet considered that families were already under pressure following the impact of the recent VAT rise to 20%.

In presenting these proposals, the council leader said that he and his cabinet, along with the CEO John van de Laarschot and his officers, had listened to feedback from the public, elected members and members of the City Council’s staff.

Despite today’s announcements it is still expected that 700 staff will leave the employment of the City Council over the next few months through voluntary or compulsory redundancies.

The City Council are facing a gap in funding of £35.6million for the next financial year.

The national coalition government implemented cuts of 8.1% upon the City of Stoke-on-Trent which when the council factored in the reductions in area based and other grant funding, actually resulted in a bigger percentage cut.

Mohammed Pervez was keen to point out that he had pleaded the case that Stoke-on-Trent was a special case with the government but in his words “Ëœthose pleas fell on deaf ears’.

Pervez said that he had written to government on numerous occasions, he had visited London and held talks with a junior minister working in Local Government and Communities Minister Eric Pickles’s team and had joined forces with other authorities namely Blackpool, Blackburn, Hull and Torbay, but to no avail. Stoke-on-Trent was still one of the worse hit areas for cuts in funding.

The council leader also said that this budget consultation had been the most thorough than any before. He and his cabinet claim that they had taken into consideration the feedback from the “ËœLet’s Talk’ consultations and the comments made during his live web debate exclusively on Pits n Pots when making these difficult decisions.

Members of the City council staff had also been given the opportunity to have their say as a part of the “ËœTell John’ exercise held by the CEO John van de Laarschot.

These proposals will now be put in front of all the political groups and presented to all elected members ahead of the Budget Meeting of the Full City Council to be held on the 24th February.

The meeting will be webcast on the Council Website.

After the briefing Council Leader Mohammed Pervez and CEO John van de Laarschot gave their views.

Listen to the audio below.

Talking Tots Recognises National Year of Communication In Stoke-on-Trent

Talking Tots Stoke-on-Trent and Newcastle-under-Lyme is excited to be involved in the National Year of Communication, which begins in January.

The aim of the National Year is to help all children and young people fulfil their potential through better communication and was originally proposed in John Bercow’s 2008 Review of Services for Children and Young People 0-19
with Speech, Language and Communication Needs.

”75 percent of heads of nurseries and schools admitting three-year-olds
have noticed a significant decline in children’s language competence at
entry over the last five years.”

At a recent event attended by Talking Tots franchise owner Neroli Oakley, Stoke Speaks Out presented evidence that a very high percentage of 3 year olds in the city are failing their Early Years Communication Checks, suggesting that they could suffer Communication and Literacy Difficulties in later life. A worrying number of young adults in Stoke on Trent have the literacy levels of a 12 year old.

”one in ten children in the U.K (approximately one million) have a
speech or language difficulty”
“In Stoke on Trent the figure is much higher than this – evidence from Sure Start local programmes suggests that more than half of the children in Stoke on Trent are at risk of a language or speech delay. This will impact significantly on the child’s ability to learn and on
future opportunities in life”

There are a range of excellent services such as Stoke Speaks Out and Children’s Centres provided by the local authorities in Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire that hope to address these problems.

Talking Tots is working with these services to deliver its unique pre-school communication classes at
subsidised prices.

However many of these are now in danger of closure due to cuts imposed by the recent Government Spending Review.

”Talking Tots is keen to be a positive contributor to the unified and inclusive effort to provide support services in the area to all Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire’s residents”
“This is only possible through the goodwill and constant support of agencies such as Libraries, Community Learning Partnerships, Stoke Speaks out and Children’s Centres.”

National Award For Stoke Speaks Out

Stoke Speaks Out, which helps younger children with language and speech problems and which is currently under threat of closure as part of the £33m savings package, has won the Workforce Development Award at the Children and Young People Now Awards in London.

The awards ceremony which was attended by Education Secretary Michael Gove who said in his keynote address,

Gathered in this room are some of the some of the most inspiring, idealistic and impressive people in the country. The job that I do at the heart of government is made not just easier but possible by the efforts that all of you, and those that you work with, put in to raise attainment and aspiration and to lift the hearts of children across the country.

The City Council which is led by the Labour party, are currently consulting with the public about the proposed £33m savings that need to be made. The savings package includes proposals for Stoke Speaks Out as well as a number of childrens centres to be closed.

These awards recognise the excellent work being carried out throughout our children’s services and I would like to congratulate all those who won and were nominated. Helping our young people, in whatever way, is extremely important and these events help to highlight the valuable contributions made by the numerous groups and individuals involved in children’s services.

How do you feel about this important and now award winning resource being potentially closed?

National Awards Bid By Stoke-on-Trent’s Children’s Services

A range of children’s services and projects in Stoke-on-Trent has been shortlisted for a number of prestigious national awards.

Four nominations are on the shortlist for the annual Children and Young People Now awards which will take place in London later this month.

More than 450 entries were received for the 22 categories. The nominations from the city are:

* Jane Blizzard for Children and Young People’s Champion

* Stoke Speaks Out for the Workforce Development Award

* The Socca, Rocka and Hoppa Youth Services’ vehicles for the Youth Work Award

* Aiming High for Disabled Children for the Parenting Award.

“The fact these people and services have been nominated for these top awards is a tribute to everyone who works in children’s services. This is an all round team effort reflecting the excellent work being carried out in a variety of areas and I wish everyone the very best of luck at the final.”

Children and Young People Now magazine is a weekly publication aimed at professionals working with children, young people and their families.

Stoke-on-Trent City Council Embark On City Bus Tour to Consult On Cuts

Stoke-on-Trent City Council Cabinet Members today [Saturday] embarked on the first of a series of bus tours across the whole 6 Towns to gauge public opinion regarding the recent announcement of severe cuts.

It was unlike the bus trips I made as a kid from Abbey Hulton Suburban Club to destinations like Blackpool, Rhyl and Southport, this trip was organised by our city council to listen to the concerns of citizens in light of the recent announcement that up to £33million cuts could be made from the local authority budget.

Cabinet Members Tom Reynolds, Sarah Hill, Kieran Clarke and Debra Gratton met in Stoke Town this morning to listen to public concerns and to learn what services are most important and what facilities are most revered by the citizens of the city.

The possible closure of 7 of the 16 children’s centres featured high on the list of concerned residents, along with the end of the Stoke Speaks Out Project and the possible loss of the City Farm.

It was clear listening to the views of many residents visiting Stoke Town and attending the Fenton Manor Leisure Centre, that the public blame the Coalition Government for the hard times to come as opposed to Stoke-on-Trent City Council.

High rates of unemployment and changes to the benefit system also worried a n umber of people keen to put their points across to the Cabinet Members in attendance.

The £33million of budget savings left some residents concerned to the level of services that the City Council would be able to deliver as well as the ongoing programme of cuts in the years to come.

We have a number of Audio Interviews for you to listen to with members of the public and the cabinet members in attendance.

The wheels of the bus went round an round and went on it’s way up to the City Centre for even more public consultation in the afternoon as a part of the Council’s “ËœLets’s Talk’ initiative.

If you have a specific are of concern or simply want to have your say on the proposed cuts, you can email or visit the website at

You can also text the Let’s Talk Team on 07766 200700, start your message with “letstalk”

Being healthy as simple as 1″¦2″¦3

Stoke Library will host a healthy information day next week (Friday 12) telling parents about the benefits of healthy living for their children.

1… 2… 3… GROW is aimed at parents with pre-school children, new families and parents to be. It will provide them with information for a healthy upbringing and include a food tasting session and children’s activities.

Information will also be available on keeping warm, energy efficient ways to take more exercise, how to look after teeth from an early age and eating five portions of fruit and vegetables a day.

A number of organisations will be present at the event to provide information and advice. Organisations include:

* Family Information Service
* Closer to Home Circular Walks
* Health Visitors
* In2work
* Fostering/Adoption
* Mum 2 Mum Breastfeeding
* Penkhull Children’s Centre demonstrating how to make healthy smoothies
* Environmental Health (healthy hand washing)
* Patient Advice and Liaison service
* Stoke Speaks Out
* Warm Zone

Councillor Hazel Lyth, cabinet member for economic development and culture, said:

“Living a healthy life is important to all of us regardless of age and this event highlights how we can help shape a healthy future for our children. It’s our responsibility to provide the best possible start in life for the young people of Stoke-on-Trent and teaching them about the advantages of a healthy living is key to their continued development.”

The first 50 families to attend the event will receive a free goody bag including a board book, rhyme sheets and a stress reliever for the parents. Bookstart Bear will also be appearing at a story and rhyme time for children at 1.30pm.

The event will take place on Friday March 12, 2010 between 10am and 3pm. For more information call Stoke Library on 01782 238446.

Stoke Speaks Out ““ a special day

Organisations which look after young children across Stoke-on-Trent are being invited to take part in a city-wide event on March 17.

Stoke Speaks Out Day is aimed at raising awareness of the help some younger children need with speech and language skills.

Nurseries, schools, childminder groups and children’s centres are all invited to take part, and to run what’s described as a “communication activity” on the 17th, which could be anything from singing nursery rhymes to story telling.

Cabinet member for children and young people’s services, Councillor Ian Mitchell, said:

“Getting parents involved in helping their children with communication skills is key to their development and this special day is a way of promoting these very important aspects of their early education.”

Last year 27 venues in the city took part in the event.

Meanwhile, 17 childminders have just completed their Stoke Speaks Out Level 1 and 2 training and will be presented with certificates on March 2nd at the Civic Centre.

Four more settings clinch “Stoke Speaks Out” award

Three schools and a nursery in Stoke-on-Trent will be honoured next month when they receive a special communication award.
The “Communication Friendly Award” has been given by “Stoke Speaks Out”, the organisation that helps younger children tackle speech and language problems, whether it’s at home or at school.
This latest group brings to ten the number of schools and nurseries to be given the honour in the city. Those receiving these latest awards will be; Abbey Hill School and Performing Arts College, Goldenhill Primary School (Foundation Stage), Forest Park Primary School and Sandford Hill Pre-School.
Cabinet member for children and young people’s services, Councillor Ian Mitchell, said:
“I would like to congratulate all those involved in helping to achieve this award. The work in developing speech and communication skills at an early age is crucial to any child’s development. Stoke Speaks Out does tremendous work with schools and in the community and I would encourage other schools and settings to work towards this award.”
Emma Roberts, Business Manager for Stoke Speaks Out said:
“This award is all about demonstrating excellent practice and we are delighted for the schools and nurseries who have achieved it so far.”
The awards will be presented by the city council’s director of children and young people’s services, Ged Rowney, on February 11, 2010.