Children's centre campaigners take fight to council's doorstep - The Leamington Observer

Children's centre campaigners take fight to council's doorstep

CAMPAIGNERS have taken their fight over the future of children’s centres in Warwickshire to the council’s doorstep.

The county’s 39 centres are facing cuts of £1.1million to help make up for a £67million drop in Warwickshire County Council’s (WCC) government funding.

WCC proposes to turn at least 12 centres into ‘family hubs’ – with the rest to be either used as outreach sites, or no longer funded by the council.

The council says its proposed family hubs will provide a wider range of services than currently available, while remaining centres will be ‘subject to reassessment, including alternative options and potential closure’.

But families are campaigning to keep the centres open – or to use council reserves to keep them running while a long-term plan is put in place.

Having already handed in a 1,500-signature petition to the council calling for the centres to remain open, the Warwick and Leamington Labour Group took the next stage of their fight directly to the council’s offices at Shire Hall in Warwick.

They installed a display of cards featuring messages about why the centres were so important.

Group spokeswoman Vicky Behm said: “The first 1001 days of a child’s life are crucial. Get something wrong in that time, and it is a struggle – and very expensive – to put it right later.

“Local children’s centres are a lifeline to families with young children and have proved to be the most successful way of delivering a whole range of services and ensuring problems are picked up and addressed early on.

“We are passionate about preserving them.

“With reserves of which it has discretion in spending, the council could take the next two years at least to reconsider ways forward.”

Under the proposals, in Warwick district, Lillington, Sydenham and Westgate children’s centres would be converted into hubs, while centres in Kenilworth, Kingsway, Newburgh, St Johns and Whitnash could be closed.

The hubs will provide children and families with a range of services, while remaining centres will be ‘subject to reassessment, including alternative options and potential closure’.

But Warwick and Leamington MP Matt Western is calling on the council to rethink their plans for the centres.

He said: “If these changes go through, then it will mean the end to universal early years services in

Warwickshire. Some families will be forced to travel long distances to reach their nearest children’s

centre – if they do at all – and with the funding cuts that go with it, services are unlikely to be as


“Having worked with the council in ensuring the centres were maintained this financial year, I really hope that the council’s leadership will ditch their proposals.”

Council chiefs say they will explore opportunities with the community and local providers to continue to offer services at the remaining centres.

Council children’s services spokesman Coun Jeff Morgan said: “Now is the best time to reconfigure the way we do things to give the right support, for the right issue, at the right time with flexibility to adapt the future.

“These proposals will ensure that Warwickshire’s offer to all its children is responsive to the needs of today and agile enough to adapt to the challenges of the future.”

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