Campaigner: 'too many' Rugby children's centres to close despite revised plans - The Rugby Observer

Campaigner: 'too many' Rugby children's centres to close despite revised plans

Andy Morris 9th Nov, 2017   0

‘TOO many’ children’s centres in Rugby are set to close, according to a campaigner against Warwickshire County Council’s (WCC) controversial plans to restructure services.

Revisions to the proposals mean Claremont and Long Lawford children’s centres would become ‘Children and Family Centres’ which would provide ‘an enhanced service across a broader age range’.

A total of 14 Children and Family Centres across the county are now proposed – up from the 12 ‘hubs’ which were initially mooted.

The Oakfield centre, previously earmarked to become a hub, now faces closure alongside Dunchurch, Newbold and Cawston centres.

Centres in Hillmorton and Wolston could continue as ‘outreach’ centres – ‘provided day to day management and costs could be transferred to a third party and where there is access and an interest in continuing service provision’.

Rugby campaigner Jim Ellis, who stood for Hillmorton ward in May’s County Council elections, said Rugby was due to have a decision made for it by the County Council.

He said: “The new choice after the public review is between Long Lawford, previously set for closure, or Oakfield. There are geographic pressures with the first and a poverty issue with the second.

“The proposals also mean there will be no provision in the east or south of Rugby for children’s services.

“All these closures are a choice. They are closing too many and relying on internet services which do not address the issue of isolation.”

He said vulnerable parents and children would have limited local support while waiting for special educational needs assessments.

He added: “Children’s centres are about reducing the risks to children living in difficult circumstances. Quality intervention early saves the state money later down the line and this may now be missed.

“When is enough enough?”

The plans aim to save £1.1million as WCC faces a £67million cut in government funding.

New recommendations include maintaining a focus on ‘stay and play’ schemes aimed at families of children with special needs, and allowing a transition period to run until October 2019.

Campaign group Save Warwickshire Children’s Centres – which has been lobbying the council to keep the centres open or to use council reserves to keep them running while a long-term plan was put in place – welcomed the revisions.

A spokesperson said: “We feel the consultation has been listened to as there are more centres staying open, more transition time has been factored in and the hubs now have a better geographical spread.

“We recognise this isn’t the outcome that will please everyone affected, however this is a much better proposal than originally tabled.

“The increased transition period will also help ease some of the turbulence that the changes to health visiting may bring with that re-organisation next year.”

Council children’s services spokesman Coun Jeff Morgan said: “Now is the best time to reconfigure the way we do things to give the right support, for the right issue, at the right time with flexibility to adapt the future.

“These proposals will ensure that Warwickshire’s offer to all its children is responsive to the needs of today and agile enough to adapt to the challenges of the future.”

WCC’s cabinet is set to vote on the new proposals today (Thursday November 9). If approved, savings will be implemented from April 1 2018 and the new model will be in place by October 1 2019.

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