Children’s centres set to close following council decision

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A controversial redesign of children centre services has been agreed by Warwickshire County Council, though Stratford, Alcester and Lighthorne Heath will be saved from the chop.

The Cabinet agreed to approve the proposals yesterday after slightly watering down their initial plans following the results of a consultation earlier this month.

Though the council originally only committed to retaining just Alcester Children’s Centre in Stratford District, it later changed its proposals to retain centres Stratford and Lighthorne Heath, while retaining outreach services at a number of others.

Yesterday’s decision does mean however that Stratford’s Clopton children’s centre will close.

Overall 14 of the county’s 39 children’s centres will be converted into Children and Family Centres, offering services to 0-19-year-olds.

However the future of the remaining 25 centres does not look quite so bright, with a large number potentially closing and others only being retained for outreach services, run by outside groups.

Warwickshire County Councillor Jeff Morgan, Portfolio Holder for Children’s Services, said: “We have made an important decision today which will enable us to offer quality services for all, and better support for those families who need us most.

“We have to do things differently in order to prioritise our services rather than buildings, some of which are expensive to maintain and not being used efficiently. We have to invest our budget in developing appropriate and future-proof services which help people to help themselves and identify potential issues as early as possible.

“We know that currently children’s centres aren’t suitable for everyone, and that the system needs a radical rethink in order for us to do the best for the most people. Any period of change is unsettling and we have taken every opportunity to listen to people’s concerns and offer reassurance where we can.

“The consultation had an incredible response which clearly demonstrates how important and valued our early years services are. We have listened to people, taking on board what they value the most and this has been reflected in the plans. We are committed to building on the successful foundations laid by our children’s centres as we begin work with partners and community groups to reshape our offer to Warwickshire families.”

The new children’s centre model will be implemented by 1st October 2019.

For more on this story read next week’s Herald.