Council approves plans to close six children's centres

By Nina Jacobs

| 11 August 2017

A council has given the green light to close more than a third of its children's centres as part of a review of its early years services.

Medway Council will close six of its children's centres

Councillors at Medway Council in Kent voted in favour of closing six centres - significantly fewer than the 15 sites proposed for closure in May - at a meeting earlier this week.

The decision will leave 13 Medway children's centres open, four of which will become children and family hubs.

The results of a public consultation showed 85 per cent of respondents were against the original plans, which would have seen all 19 centres closed, with four remodelled into "super hubs" based in areas of high demand, and up to 50 of the 98 full-time equivalent children's centre posts scrapped.

Medway has said the revised changes could save £1.6 million from its early years budget, with 15 jobs potentially lost.

Council leader Alan Jarrett said after the cabinet meeting decision the changes were necessary as the budget for the centres had been "haemorrhaging money" since they were first set up.

Councillor Andrew Mackness, Conservative lead member for children's services, added that it had been a "difficult decision" but the plans would still deliver "a high quality service".

The new super hubs will offer children's centre services for children from birth to five, as well as wider family support for older children through "early help teams", involving youth and family support workers, child and adolescent mental health services and police.

They will also provide a base for outreach workers visiting families in their own homes.

Campaign group Save Sure Start Children's Centres in Medway, whose members protested outside the council against the plans to close the centres, said they would continue to fight the decision.

On their Facebook page, the group said: "There is no outline in the report about the specific nature of services to be retained in the 13 centres. The report seems to suggest that health support services will be retained, but access-for-all services will be cut to the bone.

"This means education, play, child development, drop in, confidence-building hand-holding support services, along with staffing, still seeing big cuts."

The group is urging service users to write to the council's children's scrutiny committee as the decision will be brought before its members.

blog comments powered by Disqus