Parents Still Worried About Sure Start Centres

The consultation over the future of Children's Centres in Hampshire finishes today (Friday 15th April).

The County Council insists they will be taking all views into consideration before making any final recommendations on the proposal.

Councillor Perry, Hampshire County Council's Executive Lead Member for Children's Services said:

"So far we have had around 900 responses, mostly from parents, and it is clear they value the services provided by Children's Centres and share our aim of finding the best way forward to protect what is best about the centres that we are so proud of.

"Our approach has been to propose to streamline the management and administrative functions of the centres, cutting costs in that way so that we can ensure the continued delivery of services direct to families in much the same way as they are provided now. Families should see little change to where and how they access the support they value so much.

"This is an approach which has been acknowledged in the House of Commons and by the Department for Education which said that 'good local authorities are restructuring with care and making sensible changes - for example through the clustering of centres' so they can continue to provide much-needed services for families, but in a more efficient way".

"I do acknowledge that we could have been clearer in the original consultation information to avoid the confusion which led to people thinking we were planning to shut centres. This is why we extended the consultation by one month to ensure everyone who wanted to contribute views could do so.  We will go through the individual detailed responses with great care to help us determine the best way to proceed, to ensure key support services for the most vulnerable continues to be a focus for centres while retaining more universal services for all."

The Council is anticipating the receipt of a petition from SOCC Hampshire campaigners on Friday and will be responding to the petitioners after due consideration in accordance with our established petitions scheme. The Chairman of the Council has also agreed to a request for an extraordinary meeting of the council to discuss the proposals. This will take place on 26 April.

Councillor Perry said:

"I welcome the opportunity for this full and open debate. We were able to establish 81 individual centres with funding that was available under the previous Government. This model is no longer sustainable now that we must make £20m savings from the Children's Services budget from next year while protecting the most vulnerable children. This is why we must ensure that the millions of pounds we are and will be investing in Children's Centre services is spent most effectively and where it is needed most avoiding all unnecessary administrative costs wherever possible."