Council to axe 43 children's centres as part of £8.5m cuts

Rose Woods
Wednesday, February 24, 2016

A total of 43 children's centres are under threat in Hampshire as part of plans to shave £8.5m from the local authority's children's services budget, it has emerged.

Hampshire County Council is planning to launch a new family support service in 2017. Picture: NTI
Hampshire County Council is planning to launch a new family support service in 2017. Picture: NTI

Hampshire County Council, which currently has 54 children’s centres, is planning to keep just 11 centres open as part of its proposals for a new family support service for parents with 0- to 19-year-olds by bringing together the work of the county’s children’s centres, early help hubs and troubled families programme.

The authority has said it must meet a funding shortfall of £98m by April 2017, of which £21.5m must be met from the children’s services budget. Plans to create a single family support service will save an estimated £8.5m. As many as 180 of the existing 300 jobs across the services being brought together could go.

"As part of the proposal to develop a single family support service, and to contribute towards securing savings by 2017, the number of buildings currently used to deliver children’s centre services would be reduced," a consultation document states.

"This includes closing some of the facilities and buildings that are designated as children’s centres.

The document reveals that 11 "hubs" will be created – one in each Hampshire district – some of which would be based in current designated children’s centres.

"This would mean that there would be 11 designated children’s centres in Hampshire," the document adds.

The council said that the majority of current venues are within schools, nurseries or community centres and could potentially have an alternative use.

Under the changes, the new family support service will be targeted at the most vulnerable families. Some activities that are currently available on a universal basis will incur a charge of up to £9 per session for some families.

"The county council could maintain the current level of service to children and families, and retain the associated assets (i.e. buildings)," the consultation document states.

"However, this option has been rejected because funding levels would be insufficient in future to continue to fund these services at the same level, in the same way.

"Therefore, with limited resource, the proposals have been designed to support families and children who have high levels of need."

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