Children's centres face axe

Witney Gazette: Sue Richards with seven-week-old Jacob Edwards at the North Abingdon Childrens’ Centre Buy this photo » Sue Richards with seven-week-old Jacob Edwards at the North Abingdon Childrens’ Centre

THIRTY-seven of Oxfordshire’s 44 children’s centres could be shut as part of major budget cuts facing the county.

Staff have told the Oxford Mail that talks were held this week where it was revealed that all but seven could be axed.

The centres – which offer support to families of children under five – are used by 18,000 people a year, employ more than 260 staff and cost £9m annually.

The county council confirmed yesterday that centres could face closure as part of their efforts to cut £61m from its budget, on top of savings of £201m already made or committed to up to 2017.

They declined to discuss how many centres could shut – but the Mail understands from council staff that a figure of 37 has been spelled out to them.

County council spokesman Paul Smith said: “We will not be able to afford the widespread coverage that exists at present with 44 children’s centres and a mobile service. We must therefore concentrate closely on where these services would best be focused for the most vulnerable.

“We are likely to be proposing the closure of a number of children’s centres as part of wider savings plans linked to this year’s budget-setting process. No decisions have been taken about exactly how many children’s centres would close or which.”

Children’s centres were set up to intervene early in life to try to ensure all children have the best possible start in life. Parents can get help and advice on child and family health, parenting, money, training and employment.

It is not known which centres could shut, but mothers and those involved in childcare say they are devastated.

Ex-midwife Sue Richards, who runs the baby café at the North Abingdon Children’s Centre in Northcourt Road, said: “I am utterly horrified on every level. It’s a massive blow. The whole ethos of different teams working with families has been such a massive step forward in childcare. It is devastating to hear this news.

“There is the chance that more will end up as children in need or under child protection.

“It is short-sighted at a most crucial stage of childcare. It cannot be allowed to happen.”

New mum Daniela Winter, from Lyford Way, Abingdon, uses North Abingdon Children’s Centre and Wootton Children’s Centre two or three times a week.

The 33-year-old mum of three-month-old Marcus, said: “I was sad to hear the news because it is a great help, especially when you are a new mum.

“When you have your first baby you are wondering ‘Am I doing this right? Am I doing this wrong?’ But the children’s centre answers all your questions, and you can talk to other mums with the same problems. “I had problems breast-feeding at first and if it wasn’t for their help I probably wouldn’t be breastfeeding now.”

Last night, Conservative council leader Ian Hudspeth told the Mail: “We need to make an extra £60m worth of savings on top of £74m we are already making, so we have to look at all areas.

“If we look at children’s centres, we would also look at different ways to run the services from different places.”

A total of £22.5m has to be saved by the Children Education & Families (CEF) department of the county council by 2016.

Director Jim Leivers wrote to children’s centre staff to tell them of the proposals and held meetings to discuss the plans this week.

The letter said: “The previous practice of shaving little bits of budgets here and there, salami slicing, will no longer suffice.

“We shall have to reprioritise our ambitions, activity and emphasis.”

Labour leader of the county council Liz Brighouse said: “The children’s centres are one of the jewels in the Labour government’s crown and something we will fight very hard to protect. I am hopeful they will all stay open but there is a risk.”

The county council’s budget plans are due to go before scrutiny committees in December. The cabinet will consider the proposals in January and recommend a budget to full council on February 18.

THE LIST

Oxford

  • Donnington Doorstep Family Centre
  • East Oxford Children's Centre
  • Elms Road School & Children’s Centre
  • Florence Park Children's Centre
  • Grandpont Nursery School & Children’s Centre
  • Leys Children's Centre
  • The Maple Tree Children’s Centre
  • Marston/Northway Children’s Centre
  • North Oxford Children’s Centre
  • Rose Hill and Littlemore Children’s Centre
  • The Roundabout Centre s Slade and Headington Children’s Centre

North Oxfordshire

  • Ambrosden Area Children's Centre
  • Bicester Children’s Centre Brookside
  • Bicester Children’s Centre Glory Farm
  • Butterfly Meadows (Bloxham & Surrounding Area) Children’s Centre
  • Britannia Road Children’s Centre
  • Carterton Children’s Centre
  • East Street Centre
  • Heyford and Caversfield Area Children's Centre
  • Kaleidoscope Children’s Centre
  • North and West Witney   Children's Centre
  • North Banbury Children’s Centre
  • The Ace Centre s The Orchard (Eynsham and Woodstock Area)
  • The Sunshine Centre
  • Willow Tree (Bampton and Burford Area) Children’s Centre
  • Witney Children’s Centre

South Oxon

  • Berinsfield Children's Centre
  • Chalgrove and Watlington Children’s Centre
  • Didcot Ladygrove Children's Centre
  • Faringdon Children's Centre
  • Grove and Hanneys Children's Centre
  • North Abingdon Children's Centre
  • North East Abingdon Children's Centre
  • Red Kite Children's Centre, Thame
  • The Rainbow Children’s Centre, Henley
  • The Rainbow Centre, Sonning Common, Goring, Woodcote and area
  • South Abingdon Children's Centre
  • South Didcot Children's Centre
  • Southmoor Children's Centre
  • Stephen Freeman Children's Centre
  • Wallingford Children's Centre
  • Wantage Children’s Centre

Comments (9)

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9:42am Sat 12 Oct 13

kpgriff82 says...

An absolute disgrace! These centres can be a big help to some of the most vulnerable in the community. I understand there has to be cuts but to close 37out of 44 seems very harsh.
An absolute disgrace! These centres can be a big help to some of the most vulnerable in the community. I understand there has to be cuts but to close 37out of 44 seems very harsh. kpgriff82

11:10pm Sat 12 Oct 13

daretocare says...

its not only children's centres, 4/7 of the early intervention hubs which were only set up 2 years ago (at great cost) will dissapear too. Leaving hubs only in Banbury, Oxford and Didcot. The council will "only do what they are legally required to do" meaning it will be social services only.... no preventative work, no lower level support to stop things getting worse... no youth clubs, no group work nothing, nada, zilch...
its not only children's centres, 4/7 of the early intervention hubs which were only set up 2 years ago (at great cost) will dissapear too. Leaving hubs only in Banbury, Oxford and Didcot. The council will "only do what they are legally required to do" meaning it will be social services only.... no preventative work, no lower level support to stop things getting worse... no youth clubs, no group work nothing, nada, zilch... daretocare

9:24am Sun 13 Oct 13

DoctorBob says...

"What I can tell you is any cabinet minister if I win the election, if we win the election, who comes to me and says, “Here are my plans” and they involve frontline reductions, they’ll be sent straight back to their department to go away and think again." David Cameron
"What I can tell you is any cabinet minister if I win the election, if we win the election, who comes to me and says, “Here are my plans” and they involve frontline reductions, they’ll be sent straight back to their department to go away and think again." David Cameron DoctorBob

3:14pm Sun 13 Oct 13

Councillor mark cherry says...

The Conservative party has dominated Oxfordshire for as long as care
To remember.Sir Tony Baldy has remained solid. But as austerity starts to bite
Ian Hudspeth and his fellow conservative county councillors must be worried there future majority's are in grave danger. And with the possibility of children's centre being close which is a bite service brought in by Labour Party government I personally think its disgraceful. The the Conservative party will pay the price at the ballot box in 2015 mark my words .
The Conservative party has dominated Oxfordshire for as long as care To remember.Sir Tony Baldy has remained solid. But as austerity starts to bite Ian Hudspeth and his fellow conservative county councillors must be worried there future majority's are in grave danger. And with the possibility of children's centre being close which is a bite service brought in by Labour Party government I personally think its disgraceful. The the Conservative party will pay the price at the ballot box in 2015 mark my words . Councillor mark cherry

3:29pm Sun 13 Oct 13

Councillor mark cherry says...

The Conservative party has dominated Oxfordshire for years.Sir Tony Baldry has seen his majority unchanged for years. But as David Cameron's
Austerity starts to hit council budgets even more.With the chance of losing children centers across due to budget cuts imposed by central goverment.
Ian Hudspeth leader of the CIA and his fellow councillors must be worried
About there future majority at the next election .The children's centre offer a vital service for familys across Oxfordshire .
Which was brought in by a labour goverment. And I personally think its disgusting that they are under threat from David Cameron austerity plan which will also leave councils unable the provide many service in the near future.please accept my apology for my other grammer mistakes. Any one with a Apple iPhone will note the ISO 7 update has been a nightmear.
The Conservative party has dominated Oxfordshire for years.Sir Tony Baldry has seen his majority unchanged for years. But as David Cameron's Austerity starts to hit council budgets even more.With the chance of losing children centers across due to budget cuts imposed by central goverment. Ian Hudspeth leader of the CIA and his fellow councillors must be worried About there future majority at the next election .The children's centre offer a vital service for familys across Oxfordshire . Which was brought in by a labour goverment. And I personally think its disgusting that they are under threat from David Cameron austerity plan which will also leave councils unable the provide many service in the near future.please accept my apology for my other grammer mistakes. Any one with a Apple iPhone will note the ISO 7 update has been a nightmear. Councillor mark cherry

11:18pm Sun 13 Oct 13

alu355 says...

Although no one likes to see services cut, in my opinion this is a wise move based on my experience with these centres. Quite often there are only 1 or 2 people attending at any point in time during the day and on one trip organised by one of the centres, there were twice as many staff as parents.
Although no one likes to see services cut, in my opinion this is a wise move based on my experience with these centres. Quite often there are only 1 or 2 people attending at any point in time during the day and on one trip organised by one of the centres, there were twice as many staff as parents. alu355

2:07am Mon 14 Oct 13

DoctorBob says...

alu355 wrote:
Although no one likes to see services cut, in my opinion this is a wise move based on my experience with these centres. Quite often there are only 1 or 2 people attending at any point in time during the day and on one trip organised by one of the centres, there were twice as many staff as parents.
You appear to be spending too much of your time all hours of the day in these places. You must be quite needy.
[quote][p][bold]alu355[/bold] wrote: Although no one likes to see services cut, in my opinion this is a wise move based on my experience with these centres. Quite often there are only 1 or 2 people attending at any point in time during the day and on one trip organised by one of the centres, there were twice as many staff as parents.[/p][/quote]You appear to be spending too much of your time all hours of the day in these places. You must be quite needy. DoctorBob

11:38am Mon 14 Oct 13

gothicfairy10 says...

alu355 wrote:
Although no one likes to see services cut, in my opinion this is a wise move based on my experience with these centres. Quite often there are only 1 or 2 people attending at any point in time during the day and on one trip organised by one of the centres, there were twice as many staff as parents.
if u believe this then it's a sorry state of affairs. Children's centre do a whole lot of preventative work that if done correctly you will never even know about. it's all done privately and confidetially behind closed doors as to protect the children involved. but i know many families who have had help from them to stop children going into care, to help families sort themselves out and to improve the outcomes for the children involved. even offering food bank, midwifes, speech therapy, councelling, as well as many other services that would be unavailable or harder to get to for many people in the area's involved.
[quote][p][bold]alu355[/bold] wrote: Although no one likes to see services cut, in my opinion this is a wise move based on my experience with these centres. Quite often there are only 1 or 2 people attending at any point in time during the day and on one trip organised by one of the centres, there were twice as many staff as parents.[/p][/quote]if u believe this then it's a sorry state of affairs. Children's centre do a whole lot of preventative work that if done correctly you will never even know about. it's all done privately and confidetially behind closed doors as to protect the children involved. but i know many families who have had help from them to stop children going into care, to help families sort themselves out and to improve the outcomes for the children involved. even offering food bank, midwifes, speech therapy, councelling, as well as many other services that would be unavailable or harder to get to for many people in the area's involved. gothicfairy10

4:07pm Mon 14 Oct 13

alu355 says...

DoctorBob wrote:
alu355 wrote:
Although no one likes to see services cut, in my opinion this is a wise move based on my experience with these centres. Quite often there are only 1 or 2 people attending at any point in time during the day and on one trip organised by one of the centres, there were twice as many staff as parents.
You appear to be spending too much of your time all hours of the day in these places. You must be quite needy.
I have attended them a few times with my children and this is what I have experienced.

I don't doubt that they do good work but there are certainly areas where they are providing services which very few people use.
[quote][p][bold]DoctorBob[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]alu355[/bold] wrote: Although no one likes to see services cut, in my opinion this is a wise move based on my experience with these centres. Quite often there are only 1 or 2 people attending at any point in time during the day and on one trip organised by one of the centres, there were twice as many staff as parents.[/p][/quote]You appear to be spending too much of your time all hours of the day in these places. You must be quite needy.[/p][/quote]I have attended them a few times with my children and this is what I have experienced. I don't doubt that they do good work but there are certainly areas where they are providing services which very few people use. alu355

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