CONTROVERSIAL cuts to children centres in Evesham and Pershore have been approved by council chiefs much to the anger of campaigners who have vowed to keep up the fight to see the decision reversed.
Worcestershire County Council announced last Thursday (September 15) that 18 of the county’s 53 children’s centres would see significant cuts in funding, with the leases of the buildings being handed over to schools and child care providers.
This means overall funding for children’s centres will fall from £6.4million a year to £3million.
The Conservative leadership at County Hall has argued centres won’t be closing as a result, and claimed centres will remain open for longer.
The campaign group Worcestershire Mums Network, who have been protesting against the cuts, told the Observer they are ‘upset, disappointed and disillusioned’ by the decision.
“Children’s centres provide a vital, valuable service,” a spokesperson said.
“They are a place where any parent can get help on a wide range of issues, from mental health, breastfeeding, child development, further education, speech and language therapy, and so much more. They are often there at the front line of parenting or family problems.
“The council have determinedly ploughed ahead with their ill-informed, purely financially based decision, and hastily rushed through consultations which haven’t even properly covered what changes will be happening.
“Services at many centres are already stopping – many mums in the group have already been expressing their sadness at groups at their local children’s centres ending with little or no notice.
“This may not seem like a big deal but for new mums who might be struggling; these groups are often a lifeline.
“There is still no guarantee of what services will remain, what will be cut, whether any centres will close, or which service provider will even take up Coun Marc Bayliss’ proposal. Everything is very up in the air and vague, the County Council have left an outstanding, effective and valued service in complete disarray.
“Worcestershire Mums Network number more than 4,000 across the county, and we are upset, disappointed and disillusioned by our local council’s decision, and will carry on protesting it for as long as is needed.”
Coun Marc Bayliss, cabinet member for Children and Families, said: “I understand this is a difficult time for service users, staff and partners however these changes will allow us to continue to focus on supporting those families who need it most.
“The schools and childcare providers taking on these buildings have got some very encouraging plans for how they will continue working with partners to support children and families. In many cases, this means children’s centre buildings will be open longer and be doing more to support their local community.
“The additional funding and plans for support will allow us to work closely with our providers and partners to make these changes as smooth as possible.”
WHAT the changes mean for the Vale’s Children’s Centre’s:
Blossomvale at Abbey Park First School – A small room situated directly between two schools and will primarily be used as a base for parenting and family support provision both on and off site and for health provision.
The provider will have some capacity to support delivery of sessions by independent providers and parent-led provision.
Orchard Vale at Evesham Nursery School – Continued mixed use including parenting, family support, health and increased use for childcare provision.
The main activity room will be used by the nursery (day and term time only) and will be available for the provision of activities and parenting support outside of these times.
Health provision will continue in a separate room and there will be a reduction in universal sessions at this centre as they will be provided at other venues.
Apple Vale at Broadway First School – Ownership will transfer to the school to deliver provision for parental engagement, joint work with the existing childcare provider and a space for community use.
Universal activity sessions and health services will be scrapped but may continue to be offered at alternative locations.