The Green Party plan to protect Children’s Centre Services
Children’s Centres provide vital services for parents and children of young people. They provide a safe, accepting space where parents can bring their children and get informal, non stigmatising support from professionals when they need it, without needing an appointment. This happens most often through ‘Stay and Play’ and ‘Baby weigh’. They also offer a range of other courses, in particular crucial speech development help (Chatter matters) and parenting courses.
In 2013 the Warwickshire Children’s Centre budget was cut by £3m from about £8m per year to £5m, but all the 39 buildings across the county were kept open.
Now the Conservative run Council wants to cut a further £1m and close 25 of 39 Children’s Centres leaving 14 open with some outreach into some other places.
You can’t take 25% out of an already reduced budget and expect centres to give parents the vital help they need in children’s early days. The Green Party has identified the money to protect services for the future whilst still recommending changes to use the centre spaces better save on building costs and improve outreach services to as many parents as possible.
The Green Party plan
- Add the £1.12m back into the ongoing annual budget. As new residents move into Warwickshire the Council gets more Council Tax. At the last budget the Conservatives and Labour jointly put this extra £2.7m into a Capital Fund already with over £40m in it. We’d take £1.12m of this back and put it into Children’s Centres Services to stop the cut and support families. Unlike just dipping into one-off reserves this will provide ongoing, affordable finances for Children Centre Services for the future.
- Save on building costs by allowing nursery schools or other child care providers to use some centres. Space would be available for at least 1 day a week for local children’s Centre activities. At the moment the Conservatives are proposing closing 11 centres completely meaning that some people are not guaranteed services close to them.
Whilst some centres are very well used others lie empty for many hours a week. By renting spaces out for other young children’s provision we can use the specialist buildings better and rent out to save money and free up cash for long term vital programmes like chatter matters. The Council can put in a clause in the lease contract ensuring that the buildings can still be used for children’s Centre activities.
- Commit to No Day Lost where there are changes. Where there are changes there needs to be an excellent transition between now and September 2019 and we would commission officers at the Council to write a detailed transition plan. Changes to building operation will not take place until the outreach activities are in place and ready to go. Some transfers will take up to 18 months to complete. Where this creates extra costs clearly identified in the plan they will be funded by extra one off money up to £400k from reserves not subtracted from the normal budget.
- Produce a report to investigate whether there is evidence on the cost benefit to the overall Children’s Team at the Council of employing more early years and family support workers at early intervention level to prevent cases becoming more serious and costing more in future.
- Strengthen local involvement boards. Parents have a vital role in making Children’s Centres vibrant friendly places. They must be able to shape services in an ongoing way. We would create a small fund to provide training and accreditation (and associated childcare) to equip parents to contribute to the running of centre activities