Peterborough: Changes To Children's Centre Proposals

A £100,000 package of support for parents in Peterborough is included in an amended set of proposals on the future of children's centres.

Since the original proposals were published in November, childcare providers, schools, a parish council and a group of parents have also come forward to say how they would like to run services from some of the centres in the future.

This means that potential alternative uses have been identified for all of the eight children's centres that are proposed to be re-designated - all still providing services to families with children under five.

Over the past decade 15 children's centres have opened in the city. Initially the centres were just targeted at vulnerable families to support them to give their children a good start in life and to ensure they were not disadvantaged when they started school.

However, over the past few years, central government has changed the way it provides support for families. It now offers a whole raft of different support programmes including free childcare for all three and four year-olds and doubling the number of health visitors in the city to work with young families.

Following an eight-week consultation, including six public events, meetings with the parent advisory groups for each centre and meetings with the existing children's centre providers, including Spurgeons and Barnado's, an amended set of proposals are to go before Cabinet.

The proposals are still to create a network of four children's centre hubs, three outreach centres and re-using the remaining eight children's centres, however they now also include spending an additional £100,000 on developing alternative ways to support families such as:
-helping to set up parent support groups
-continuing to provide parent and baby sessions run by professionals within communities
-providing support to mothers with post-natal depression

Councillor Sheila Scott, Cabinet Member for Children's Services, said: "I am really pleased that through our discussions about the future use of some of the children's centres, childcare providers and some of the adjoining schools have expressed an interest in taking over the running of the centres. This will enable some of the existing services that run from children's centres such as midwife and health visitor services to continue from these buildings.

"Parents have told us they wanted the centres to continue as they are but unfortunately doing nothing is not an option. In these very difficult times, when we have faced a £19 million gap in our budget, we have had to make some very difficult decisions about future services.

"However, we have listened to parents' concerns and hope the £100,000 package of measures we are putting forward will go some way to allay some of their fears and also ensure that parents continue to get support in the communities in which they live. The children's centre hubs and outreach centres will continue to support parents in the most deprived areas of the city to ensure those families in the greatest need can access them."

When children's centres first opened in the most deprived areas of the city, they were the main way families accessed services. But things have changed greatly in the past few years and now the government provides a whole range of other support and some of this duplicates what children's centres do.

Councillor Scott added: "In this very difficult financial climate we need to ensure that the services we provide are giving the most support to those in greatest need and therefore we need to change the way our children's centres are used.

"It has been well-reported that parents in this city can struggle to find school places or nursery and pre-school places in their own communities. We anticipate that the change of use of some centres will potentially increase that provision whilst also giving parents local access to health visitors and midwives."

If approved, the amended proposals would save the council £1.18million.

If Cabinet recommend the amended proposals they will then go to Full Council as part of the main budget setting process on 5 March 2014.

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