CALL FOR COUNCILLORS TO TAKE ON FAMILY PORTFOLIO
A Government minister is urging councils to have an Executive Member for the Family. Harriet Harman, who is Family Justice Minister, believes holders of the suggested role could act as the liaison point for family problems and could work with a new Secretary of State for the Family in central government.
She told a meeting organised by the New Local Government Network that local government services had for a long time focused on protecting vulnerable people and had built the strength of local communities. She went on, “Perhaps there should be a councillor in each local authority designated as having responsibility for looking across the council’s services to ensure they support families and being the liaison point for families.” She added, “We should have a Secretary of State to do that in government who could work with those designated councillors in local authorities”.
Ms Harman also called on authorities to ensure schools were open at all times, including holiday periods, so they could be used by their local communities and to be the base for enhanced youth facilities. She told the delegates to the event, called ‘Wise Council? The changing role of local authorities in family and social policy’, that all over the country the constant complaint was that there was nothing for young people to do and there were persistent demands from parents for better youth services. National and local government, she said, had done a great deal to develop services for young children and she continued, “We need to take the Sure Start approach, high quality community based services accessible to all but focussing first on areas of deprivation, and take it up the age range.” At the same time it was important to ensure that the millions of pounds invested in sport, arts and computer facilities in schools were not closed after school and at weekends and during the holidays. They had to be available to young people, whether or not they went to school, and at a price that did not shut them out