4 January 2016

Decision due on children’s centres proposals

A decision on how Brighton & Hove City Council will deliver its children’s centre service in future is due to be made at a meeting on Monday 11 January. 

The council’s children, young people and skills committee will consider the results of a consultation that attracted 578 responses.

The proposals that have been consulted on are based on the findings of a review board that included parent and voluntary sector representatives as well as public health and NHS experts. The review has also taken into account the consultation the council conducted late last winter.

The proposals seek to ensure that children’s centres will continue to offer citywide, universal service to all parents and provide additional support to children and parents in greatest need.  No buildings are closing as part of the proposed changes.

They propose providing a balance of services such as open-access baby groups in venues across the city and services including home visits where appropriate for families in greatest need of intensive support.

Families on low incomes are eligible for free childcare places for two year olds.

The plans would see 11 of the 12 children’s centre buildings continuing to be used to deliver services. Seven would continue to be designated as children’s centres, and these would deliver outreach services to the other four sites.  

Other proposals include:

  • Offering more parenting talks and discussion groups to reach more parents at an earlier stage
  • Improved support for families with young children facing multiple disadvantage as part of the city’s Stronger Families Stronger Communities programme
  • Promoting volunteering and community / parent run groups.

The chair of the council’s children, young people and skills committee, Councillor Tom Bewick, said: “We need to make sure resources are targeted at the children and families who need them most.

“The new structure we are considering offers a sustainable long-term future for our children’s centres service.

“The council’s four-year financial strategy makes clear that if this is agreed we will not need to make any more reductions to the children’s centres budget over the next three years.

“Children’s centres are a great resource for the city and we want to look at new ways of using the buildings including community and parent-run groups.”

Due to budget reductions from central government and increased demand for services the council has to make savings of some £68m in the coming years.

The council’s budget proposals for 2015/16 included a reduction in funding for children’s centres. Following a public consultation temporary funding for 2015/16 only of £670,000 was agreed in order to maintain services.

There is a proposal for a further saving of £176,000 as part of the 2016/17 budget proposals. If agreed the total reduction will be £846,000.