News about children's centres
During a six-week consultation starting this week, the public are being urged to have their say on the plans, which aim to safeguard the services provided by the city's 17 children's centres in the face of Government funding cuts.
Under proposals drawn up by the children's centres themselves in partnership with the council, 12 of the 17 centres would continue to be separately registered and offer a full range of services to children and their families. The remaining 5 centres would continue to deliver a significant range of services, though some would see slightly reduced opening hours.
The proposals were drawn up following a reduction in the Early Intervention Grant the city council receives from the Government. It is used to fund the centres but is being reduced by nearly a third - or £3.88 million - over the next two years. Though some of this shortfall has been met, councillors agreed to make savings of £1.5 million per year from the service.
Rob Willoughby, Wolverhampton City Council's Assistant Director for Community Services, said: "I'd like to pay tribute to the management of the 17 children's centres who have worked tirelessly with council officers to come up with what we believe to be very workable plans which will safeguard services provided by the city's children's centres.
"It is particularly pleasing that the proposals that have been put forward will see services continue to be provided from all of the existing children's centre sites.
"We are confident that, if the new structure is agreed, children and their families will be able to expect a similar level of service to the one they currently receive. For most areas, their services will remain unchanged."
Children's centres provide a range of services and activities aimed at expectant and new parents, including baby clinics, stay and play sessions, baby massage and parenting classes. They also host midwifery and health visitor services, offering advice on a range of subjects such as breastfeeding, healthy eating and stopping smoking.
The proposals would see 8 new integrated Child and Family Support Service areas created across Wolverhampton, bringing children's centre services together with the city council's other family support services. Each of the new areas would have one or more children's centres.
- In Area 1, Eastfield and Rainbow children's centres would continue to be separately registered with no planned reduction in services at either centre
- In Area 2, St Martin's and Bilston children's centres would continue to be separately registered, with no planned reduction in children's centre services, though grant funding for Bilston's separate childcare service would end, with work taking place to look at the long term sustainability of the service
- In Area 3, Windsor Children's Centre would remain as the registered centre and continue to offer a full service. There would be reduced opening hours at All Saints and Sunbeam, although both would continue to offer significant timetabled provision. Plans would also be developed to make the childcare service offered by Windsor Children's Centre self-financing
- In Area 4, Bingley Children's Centre would be the registered centre and continue to offer a full service. Star would still provide significant timetabled provision, though opening times would be reduced
- In Area 5, Whitmore Reans Children's Centre would continue to be the sole centre in this area, which would also cover Newbridge and Tettenhall. Though the vast majority of services currently provided by the centre would continue some specific services such as baby story time and language classes may cease
- In Area 6, Dove and Bushbury Triangle children's centres would continue to be separately registered and continue to offer the same level of service as at present, while Marshes Children's Centre would continue to offer timetabled provision
- In Area 7, Low Hill and The Berries children's centres would continue to be separately registered with no planned reduction in services at either centre
- In Area 8, The Children's Village would remain as the registered centre with The Parks being used as a delivery point. Children's centre services at both locations would continue as at present though funding for The Children's Village's separate childcare service will end and work will take place to look at the long term sustainability of this service
Mr Willoughby said: "These proposals make it possible for the children's centre service to make the required savings primarily by streamlining management and administration costs and reducing premises costs.
"In the handful of areas where it is proposed there will be a slight reduction in services, the city council will be working closely with the children's centres involved to ensure that there is minimal disruption to parents and that, where possible, parents can be signposted towards alternative services."
Mr Willoughby added: "Our children's centres provide an excellent service to children and families across Wolverhampton and these proposals will ensure that this will continue to be the case.
"I'd urge everyone to have their say so that we can ensure that the way we deliver these services in the future meets their needs."
released: Wednesday 8 May, 2013