'Radical' children's centre plans approved - The Rugby Observer

'Radical' children's centre plans approved

‘RADICAL’ plans to scrap a number of Warwickshire children’s centres have been given the go-ahead.

Out of the 39 current children’s centres, 14 will be turned into all-purpose ‘Children and Family Centres’, providing services to those up to the age of 19 instead of just children under five.

Another 16 of the centres will be no longer run by the council but staffed by volunteers providing ‘outreach services’ – although it is unclear what these services will be.

The plans are part of a £1.1million cost-cutting scheme by Wawickshire County Council after the authority was faced with a £67million cut in government funding.

And yesterday (November 9) councillors approved plans to redesign services, with some changes following a consultation.

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

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

And centres in Hillmorton and Wolston will 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 expressed fears there would be no provision in the east or south of Rugby, and vulnerable parents and children would have limited support while waiting for special educational needs assessments.

He added: “They are closing too many and relying on internet services which do not address the issue of isolation.

“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.”

Following the decision, Warwickshire County Council spokesman for children’s services Jeff Morgan said the plans meant prioritising services rather than buildings which were expensive to maintain.

He added: “We know that currently children’s centres aren’t suitable for everyone, and that the system needs a radical rethink in order for us to do the best for the most people. Any period of change is unsettling and we have taken every opportunity to listen to people’s concerns and offer reassurance where we can.

“The consultation had an incredible response which clearly demonstrates how important and valued our early years services are. We have listened to people, taking on board what they value the most and this has been reflected in the plans. We are committed to building on the successful foundations laid by our children’s centres as we begin work with partners and community groups to reshape our offer to Warwickshire families.”

The plans are expected to be in place by October 2019.

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