03 June 2014

A key milestone in the future of children’s centre services in Northamptonshire has been reached with the awarding of new contracts for the delivery of services supporting children and families.

The management of children’s centre services will be organised across ten areas of the county, four in Northampton borough and one in each of the remaining six districts/boroughs.

Northamptonshire County Council has today awarded seven out of ten of the new area-based contracts to two leading children’s charities. Five contracts have been formally awarded to Action for Children and two contracts have been awarded to Spurgeons.

The county budget for the provision of services totals £10.4 million each year up to 31st March 2017.

Libraries to provide advice and information

Councillor Heather Smith, cabinet member for children’s services, said: “Unlike many local authorities we have been able to protect our children’s centre services from significant budget cuts, maintaining annual budgets of over £10million per year. However we are re-organising the way our children’s centre services are delivered to ensure that we have a consistent and effective approach to protecting young children and giving them the best start in life.

“Our libraries will become the default local venue for non-specialist services such as registration and advice while the children’s centres will focus on targeted support for families in need of extra help and expertise.

Supporting young families across the county

“By making sure that we identify risks early and intervene sooner to give the support and help that can make all the difference in stopping families problems escalating, Children’s Centres will be supporting the work we are doing across all services to respond to last year’s Ofsted inspections.

“Our existing children’s centre providers have done some incredible work but we need to build on this to further improve the support provided to young families across the county and ensure that more families can access that support.

“In providing more targeted early help services, we expect the successful bidders to work much more locally than has been the case, with a greater emphasis on outreach work and providing services to families in their own homes and communities.”

The contracts were designed to drive forward changes to the council’s approach to providing early help and prevention services which aims to help families and young people as soon as any challenges or difficulties are identified. This new model of providing services will see children's centre services developed as early help specialists with this being supplemented by the county's libraries and health services.

The new model was subject to public consultation and its development was approved by the council’s cabinet in October 2013. In addition to commissioning the new contracts, the council will expand the range of services currently provided by its library service to incorporate:

  • information and advice
  • registration services
  • activities for children
  • recruitment of volunteers for children's centres services

What happens next?

These new contracts will begin in the summer 2014 and have been awarded to Action for Children in Daventry, Kettering, Northampton Central, South Northamptonshire and Wellingborough. Spurgeons has been awarded the contracts for East Northamptonshire and Northampton North.

The tenders for the remaining three remaining areas, Northampton West, Northampton East and Corby will be awarded in the coming months.

The council will be working with the successful providers and other relevant partners to introduce and develop the new services to ensure they meet the needs of young families in each locality. Where any significant changes to the delivery of current services are proposed, there will be further formal consultation.