Council Begins Consultation on Children's Centres

Local people urged to give their views on "reconfiguring"

 

Online consultation

Anger as Sure Start Funding Cuts are Agreed

Protestors Rally at Hammersmith Town Hall

Cabinet Meeting Agenda, January 10

MP Attacks Plan for Funding Cuts to Children's Centres

Family Support Programme

Sure Start Centres

Andy Slaughter

Sure Start Centres in Hammersmith and Fulham

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Hammersmith & Fulham Council has begun a public consultation on plans it describes as "reconfiguring" its Sure Start children’s centres.

The plans, which involve cutting £3.2 million from its budget for children's services, have provoked anger from the public and from local MP Andy Slaughter.

But having already voted for the funding  cuts, the council is now laying out its plans and asking local people to comment.

The council says it proposes to:

Keep all 15 of its current centres open
Open a 16th centre as part of the new Avonmore Neighbourhood Centre
Make savings in back office and management costs
combine services with the locality based family support programme to better target the most vulnerable families at the earliest opportunity
Work with health, adult education, Job Centre Plus and 3rd sector providers to share children’s centre sites, again reducing costs and widening the range of services available to local families.

The consultation runs from 22 January to 28 February 2011 and the full report and questionnaire is available online.

The council says three of the borough’s 15 centres are currently managed by itself, seven by local schools, and five by voluntary sector providers.

The council proposes to transfer the remaining three council-managed centres to commissioned providers and to move to a ‘hub and spoke’ arrangement. Six hubs would receive higher levels of funding; oversee a number of ‘spoke’ centres; and offer a wider range of services.

The council also says the national financial climate and the resulting public spending review has reduced the amount of money available for itl to spend over the coming years. H&F Council has to reduce its spending by £64 million over the next three years and, like all local authorities, is faced with making some difficult decisions on how best to continue services with reduced resources, while trying to minimise the impact on residents. Savings of £6.5m are proposed for children’s services in 11/12.

From April 2011 the Sure Start, Early Years and Childcare Grant will be replaced with a new Early Intervention Grant which will no longer be ring-fenced. By combining this with its family support programme, the council plans to deliver a better service and spend £6.45 million in 11/12, compared to £5.375 million in 10/11.

" We think there are alternatives to closing centres, but they require innovative thinking and a willingness by the council, health services, voluntary sector providers and local people to work together,” says children’s services cabinet member, Cllr Helen Binmore.

"By combining children’s centres with family support services, we can make savings in our running costs while making it easier for vulnerable families to get the services they need at the earliest opportunity before their difficulties escalate to the point that they need more expensive crisis interventions.

“We welcome views on these proposals or any other options local people or organisations would like to propose.”

 

January 24, 2011