The consultation ended yesterday (Tuesday 18 June, 2013) and saw hundreds of people have their say about how Wolverhampton City Council could protect the services in the face of funding cuts.
It follows 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 2 years. As a result, the city council has had to find savings totalling £1.5 million from the £6.4 million per year children's centre service.
Working closely with children's centres managers, their governing and advisory bodies and other partners, proposals have been drawn up which will see 12 of the 17 centres remain separately registered and continue to 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 operate slightly reduced opening hours.
Hundreds of people took part in an extensive consultation into the proposals, with 266 attending public meetings at the children's centres and more than 750 questionnaires being completed. In addition, 373 people signed petitions and 33 letters commenting on the plans were received.
Following the end of the consultation, a report will now be prepared and presented to Members of Wolverhampton City Council's Cabinet on Wednesday 24 July, 2013.
Val Gibson, Wolverhampton City Council's Cabinet Member for Children and Families, said: "I'd like to say a big thank you to everyone who has contributed towards this process and helped to develop proposals which we believe will enable us to continue to provide an excellent service to children and their families in Wolverhampton.
"It was great to hear how highly thought of our children's centres are by those who use them and I'm pleased that our proposals will enable us to carry on providing services from all 17 children's centre locations - despite the major funding reduction we are facing.
"Instead, we're proposing to reduce management and administration costs by co-ordinating the services across 8 larger areas, rather than from each children's centre as is currently the case.
"Most parents shouldn't notice a difference to the service they receive, and where we are proposing to reduce opening hours slightly, we'll ensure this happens when the children's centres are typically quietest. It should be stressed that people will be able to continue to access services at other centres and by calling the dedicated parental help and support team between 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday."
Subject to Cabinet approval next month, the proposed changes will be introduced later this year.
Rob Willoughby, Wolverhampton City Council's Assistant Director for Safeguarding, Business Support and Community Services, said: "We've worked closely with the children's centres to develop these proposals and we'll be working closely with them again to ensure that they can be successfully implemented and have minimal impact on children and their families.
"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.
"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.
For more information about the proposals, please visit Type=links;Linkid=2075;Title=;Target=_blank;, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01902 551464.
- released: Wednesday 19 June, 2013