A TWELVE week consultation on the future of Children’s Centre services in Reading has been launched.
The council is proposing to reduce the number of designated Children’s Centres to four central hubs with services also being offered in a network of satellite buildings and community venues.
The new arrangement would continue to offer universal health and maternity services and more intensive support would be available for vulnerable families.
The proposals form part of the council’s requirement to make £42 million of savings by 2020 due to ongoing cuts in central government funding.
Reading currently has 13 designated children’s centres, led by five teams, offering a range of activities which help prepare children for school or nursery. These include family activities, such as Messy Play and Story Time, along with more targeted support, such as perinatal mental health group sessions and one-to-one family support.
Under the new proposals, the Children’s Centre service would be a mix of targeted and universal services ensuring that the most vulnerable families are offered services. Maternity services and health services would still be available for all families from Children’s Centres.
The number of designated Children’s Centre hubs would reduce to four hubs with the Health Visiting Service integrated within them. Increasingly, services are being delivered in different and more flexible ways through homes visits and the use of satellite and community buildings.
The North/East Reading Hub would be located at Sun Street Youth and Community Centre, in Newtown, with a satellite at Caversham Children’s Centre and Nursery School. The South Reading Hub would be located in Whitley Youth Centre, under the new name of South Reading Children’s Centre Hub.
The West Reading Hub 1 would be in Southcote Youth & Community Centre with a satellite at Coley Children’s Centre and West Reading Hub 2 would be located in Ranikhet Children’s Centre with a satellite at Civitas Academy or Battle Library.
A number of other community buildings, such as Emmer Green Community Centre, Tilehurst Library and Hexham Road Community Centre, would also be used to deliver services.
Many of the buildings which currently offer Children’s Centre services will continue to be active as they also function as nursery schools and offer childcare facilities. Some buildings could be sold as part of the council’s ongoing asset realisation project while others could be used by the council for alternative purposes related to family service provision.
Councillor Jan Gavin, Reading’s Lead Member for Children’s Services, said:
“Reading’s Children’s Centres currently offer a wide range of family services to parents, prospective parents and young children in the borough.
“However, drastic and sustained cuts in government funding mean we can no longer continue to fund the same level of service and have had to look at different ways of working.
“We want to hear the views of local families, service providers and members of the public about these proposed changes before making a final decision on the future of Children’s Centres services in Reading.”
People can have their say by visiting: https://consult.reading.gov.uk/css/childrenscentres/ or picking up a consultation document at children’s centres, libraries or the Civic Offices in Bridge Street.
A series of consultation events are also taking place at:
Southcote Children’s Centre: 24th January, 10am – midday.
Ranikhet Children’s Centre: 10th February, 11.30am – 1.30pm.
SureStart Whitley Children’s Centre: 16th February, 10am – midday.
Caversham Children’s Centre: 20th February, 10am – midday.
Katesgrove Children’s Centre: 1st March, 10am – midday.
All responses should be received by midday on Wednesday 29th March.
The analysis of the responses will be published and presented to councillors for a final decision in June 2017.
Notes to Editors
The remodelling of the Children’s Centre service would result in savings of about £400,000 by the end of 2018/19, as agreed by the Policy Committee in July 2016, which represents 32 per cent of the current spend. Cuts in government funding and increased demands on services mean the council has already made £65 million of savings since 2011 and £42 million of savings are still needed by 2020.