Kent County Council (KCC) are planning to change the way they deliver Children's Centre services throughout the county and have begun a consultation on the possible closure of the Woodgrove Children's Centre on Johnson Road here in Sittingbourne
A Press Release from the KCC states that "in the current economic climate efficiency savings must be made, so it is vital that the council sets out a new model for its Children's Centres which is sustainable for the long-term future".
The Council says that it has identified 16 lead centres which are bigger buildings in communities where more families need early support services. They are proposing that "in future these will become 'Children's Centre Plus' and will co-ordinate services across smaller, linked centres in the area. This will mean that they will work more closely with local GPs, schools, health visitors, child minders, nurseries, social services, health specialists, Job Centre Plus and the voluntary sector to offer better access to vital services".
The Council believe at this new model will allow for them "to focus spending on services to children, while reducing costs for buildings, management, and other overheads. It will deliver savings of at least £1.5m while maintaining wide coverage across the county and continued access to a nearby service for those who need it most".
KCC has launched a 12-week consultation from today (Thursday 3rd July) to get the views of local parents and carers and the wider community who use the centres now or will use them in the future.
Jenny Whittle, KCC cabinet member for specialist children's services, told SFM News that "KCC is committed to continuing to provide the services we currently offer through our Children's Centres and continuing to make a difference to the futures of families we help through those centres. We need to make efficiency savings and will seek to do this by minimising property and management costs. We are committed to seeking the views of those families for whom Children's Centres provide important services. We will be conducting a full public consultation over the summer to gather views on our proposals. We recognise how important these services are to many families and we are looking at new and different ways to deliver them to the people who need them most. This includes working together with clinical commissioning groups to host services for families and working with the expanded Kent health visitor workforce to support first time families and vulnerable parents and children in our communities."
Children's Centres provide early childhood services such as nursery provision, social services, health services, training and employment services for parents and prospective parents and information and advice. The Council believes that "parents will still be able to use services at another Children's Centre or community venue, such as a library or GP surgery. If the proposal is implemented in full, accessibility to a Children's Centre will remain the same for more than 99% of families. Services which improve health, education and social care outcomes for children and families will be protected and focussed on the needs of the local population. Earlier support will also be targeted towards the families that need it".
To find out more about the proposals and take part in the consultation, visit www.kent.gov.uk/childrenscentres. The consultation runs from 4th July - 4th October 2013.