Senior Cornwall councillors have strongly criticised the Unite union for claiming that parents could be charged for health visits for their children.

The union made the claims ahead of a decision by the council’s Cabinet yesterday to move ahead with plans to bring together children’s services which it says will improve them.

Unite quoted a previous document about the plans to integrate children’s services which suggested that means-testing could be introduced for some services and claimed it could include health visitors.

However the council had said that while charging had been considered it was never going to be introduced for statutory services – those it is required to proved by law – such as health visitors.

Cabinet member Andrew Mitchell said: “They said that Cornwall Council was going to charge for health visitors. My understanding is that is utter nonsense. We wouldn’t be charging for health visitors as that is a statutory duty.”

Cllr Mitchell said he thought there was a “hidden or political agenda” about the claims made by Unite and accused it of “scaremongering”.

Sally Hawken, Cabinet member for children and wellbeing, said that having been a member of a union which had been “important” to her she was “really disappointed” to see the comments from Unite.

She said there were “no plans” to introduce charging and added: “They knew perfectly well that we were not going to do that..”

Cllr Hawken added: “We have no intention to charge for mandatory services and we will never do that.”

The council’s Cabinet yesterday morning approved the proposal to create an Integrated Children’s Services Directorate (ICSD).

This will bring together the council’s education, early years, community children’s health, early help and social care services under one banner.

The move follows months of work to look at new ways of delivering children’s services which would improve the effectiveness of the services provided by the council.

It will mean there will be one single entry point for people accessing the services which are currently said to be fragmented which causes overlap and duplication.

The council is also aiming to get better use of resources and close a budget gap which it is facing.

Cllr Hawken said it was an important step which would further improve the council’s children’s services which are already performing well.

She said: “The key driver of this is about improving outcomes. I am not dismissing the financial implications or the enormous demands that we face.

“This is about doing things differently for the benefit of children in Cornwall.”

The council’s children’s social care services were rated ‘good’ by Ofsted in 2016 and the council has been looking to integrate children’s services with an aim of taking the service to an ‘outstanding’ rating.

Explaining the reasoning for the new delivery model, a report to Cabinet stated: “The challenge to bring about integration is significant due to the fact that important responsibilities relating to typical pathways to education, care and support for a child are held by different public service bodies, particularly for vulnerable children and young people.

“All of the public service bodies involved in delivering services to children, young people and their families accept that the current arrangements are not sustainable.”

It adds: “This proposal is motivated by the ambition of the council and its partners to further improve the quality and effectiveness of services for children, young people and families in Cornwall.”

The council had also considered setting up an alternative delivery model (ADM) to deliver children’s services through a company wholly owned by the council.

This approach had been supported by the council’s children and families overview and scrutiny committee which had recommended that the ADM should still be considered by the Cabinet.

Cllr Hawken said that while the door had not been closed to an ADM in the future the council was keen to press ahead with setting up the ICSD.

She said that it was important to provide stability to staff and users of the services about how the services will operate in future without them thinking that “we could be changing it again in six months”.

The Cabinet agreed unanimously to form an ICSD for children’s services.