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SIDMOUTH: Children’s centre could face closure
Thursday, 01 May 2014
Sidmouth Children’s Centre could face closure as Devon County Council continues to make cost-cutting measures. The town’s youth centre is already under review with changes at the library also proposed, and the Sure Start centre has now been added to the list of public services highlighted for cutbacks. The centre currently provides early childhood services for families during pregnancy, birth and in the early years of a child’s life up to the age of five. Action for Children, which runs the centre on behalf of the council, also provides advice and guidance for parents about how to access additional services. But following a public consultation lasting until June, the county authority could decide to close the centre and gear services towards those most in need. Mandy Lane, Operational Lead at the centre, said: “Parenting is a life-changing time and we know that families are more mobile now and tend not to be living close to a small network of friends and relatives. “The centre provides that network and helps people to socialise with others – it can normalise things as a parent. “We are very well supported by Devon County Council in general and they have always been pro-children’s centres – some counties have already wiped their centres. “But the proposals will mean a change in services and what families are able to access, and centres could be identified for closure so that front line staff can be kept.” The council is proposing to keep children’s centre buildings only in the most deprived areas and instead look to transfer some buildings for use by other early childhood services, such as pre-schools. Centre opening times could also be reduced and options for outsourcing services to other providers in the local community will be considered. Councillor James McInnes, Cabinet Member with responsibility for Children and Young People’s Services, said: “We remain fully committed to delivering high quality, multi-agency services for children under five, and particularly to those families in greatest need. “And we will continue to support the delivery of local services, either directly from children’s centres or through a range of outreach services. “But given the current financial situation things simply cannot stay the same and we have to think again about the best way to provide this support to families for less money. “Clearly some efficiencies can be made in the way we contract for these services but this review offers a genuine opportunity not only to protect children’s centres into the future but also to redesign current services to better meet local needs across the county, including in rural areas.” The consultation ends on June 6th and a final recommendation will be considered by Cabinet on July 9th. Full details of the proposals can be found at www. devon.gov.uk/toughchoices.
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