Proposals to change the way some Children’s Centre buildings are used are the subject of a consultation launched today.
Recent changes to how children’s centre services are delivered mean that new providers are spending more time with families in their homes and increasing the number of local venues used.
Children’s Centre buildings are not needed to the same extent as before so the county council is launching the consultation about proposals to reduce the opening hours in some Children’s Centre buildings and in five cases, to change the venue to a more suitable location.
Why are the changes proposed?
Deputy Leader Heather Smith said: “A year ago, this council agreed to change the focus of our Children Centre services as part of our response to Ofsted’s inadequate ratings of our children’s services.
“We know that we haven’t been good enough at helping families in need of support and many of those families’ situations deteriorated to crisis point requiring social worker involvement.
“When we awarded new contracts over the summer to Action for Children and Spurgeons, we asked for a greater emphasis than before on working in communities and with families in their homes.
“This inevitably means that less time is spent in the Children’s Centre buildings so the consultation proposes that we change opening hours. Some buildings would remain as they are, most would see a reduction in the hours they’re open and in the case of five centres, we’re looking at moving services to entirely new venues that are better situated for outreach and community work.”
“We want to spend much more time with families and children in and nearer to their homes."
Operational director at Action for Children, Laurie Long, said: “We would like to reassure families that we will continue to provide accessible, high quality services to all the children, young people and families in the areas we operate, as well as reach those who currently don’t access children’s services.
“We want to spend much more time with families and children in and nearer to their homes and this means we will deliver less in the current buildings. To achieve this we propose to change the hours that some buildings are open.”
Paul Ringer, director of children’s services at Spurgeons, said: “Spurgeons hopes that children’s centres will become community hubs and we will do this by encouraging other local voluntary organisations and community groups, including the development of parent led groups, to use the centres as a base for delivering sessions.
“We will be using a range of outreach venues, such as church halls and community centres, alongside children’s centre buildings.
“Our vision for children’s centres is that they are not just simply buildings but are a wide range of accessible services for children, their parents and carers and the wider community.
“By using outreach venues we hope to promote accessibility of services by ensuring that services are in areas convenient to local people and to reach those families in greatest need.”
In each of the nine areas, at least one centre would remain open full-time and in some cases there would be two or more centres with full-time opening. Although opening hours would be reduced in other centres, almost all would still be used for targeted Children’s Centre services as well as for health visitor and midwife appointments or drop-ins and for other advice services such as JobCentre Plus.
In five areas it has become apparent that the Children’s Centre will be more likely to be used if it is moved to a more suitable venue. These are Highfield in Wellingborough, Nene Lakes in Earls Barton, Manor in Raunds, Brixworth in Daventry and Roade in South Northamptonshire.
How to talk part in the consultation
Details of the proposals have been published on the council’s website today. People can take part in the consultation by:
- completing the online questionnaire
- requesting and emailing a completed questionnaire to CCConsultation@northamptonshire.gov.uk
- posting a completed questionnaire to: Early Help & Prevention, Samita Shah, Room 140, County Hall, Northampton, NN1 1AY.
- attending one of the public consultation meetings that have been arranged.
The consultation will run until Friday 19 December 2014. Feedback will be reported to the county council’s cabinet in February 2015. If approved, the changes will take effect from April 2015.
Notes to editors
Children’s centre services are a key part of the council’s plans to provide early help and support to families with a child under five. In Northamptonshire these services have been divided into two groups:
- those that every family might want to access, which are known as universal services. These are provided by the council’s LibraryPlus service from 36 libraries around the county, some of which are open seven days a week and all of which are open on Saturdays and Sundays.
- those that are provided for families who need some help or support, and which are usually provided following a referral or assessment, known as targeted services. Following a tendering process, these services are provided by Action for Children and Spurgeons in nine of ten localities in the county. (The exception is Corby where existing contracts have been extended.)