Council consults on re-shaping children’s centres

Published: 3 December 2018

Sustained cuts in funding from central government is forcing the council to consider a re-design of services at children’s centres.

On December 11, the Cabinet is expected to approve a formal consultation on options to tackle the annual shortfall for the service of £650,000, which is 30 per cent of the current budget.

Steep central government cuts have already led most local authorities to reduce provision or close children’s centres altogether.

Redbridge Council has seen its budget fall by £166million, nearly 60 per cent, since 2010 but it has continued to keep its children’s centres open and provide free universal services.

The council currently operates eight main ‘hub’ children’s centres offering a range of services plus an extensive network of 13 ‘satellites’, often in community buildings, which are open when the council or its partners run sessions.

Acknowledging the benefit of children’s centres - particularly for vulnerable families - the council is determined to retain at least seven main hubs offering full services, despite the huge pressure on its finances. 

The range of options up for consultation include:

  • Convert one hub, Aldersbrook, into a satellite centre
  • Close satellite centres that are under-used
  • Charge for some activities with low-income families continuing to access services for free
  • Charge partners, such as the NHS, for use of the centres when they put on sessions
  • Changes to staffing, including reducing the number of managers

Cabinet Member for Children and Young People Cllr Elaine Norman said: “We know that our children’s centres are highly valued by the families that use them, which is why we’ve worked really hard to ensure irresponsible central government cuts have not impacted on these services like elsewhere.  But the sustained financial pressures created by funding reductions requires some re-thinking of our delivery so that we can retain as many services as possible for parents and their children.  We want to hear the views of families, services providers and members of the public about the options, as well as their own ideas, before making a final decision on how we best create a sustainable children’s centre service.”    

Subject to Cabinet approval, consultation will run for 12 weeks and will be available on the council’s consultations pages from 12 December 2018 at www.redbridge.gov.uk/consultations  

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