New fears for children's centres

Little Lane Childrens Centre, Ilkley.REP - AG (8765160)

Little Lane Childrens Centre, Ilkley.REP - AG (8765160)

First published in News by

CHILDREN'S centres in Ilkley and Menston could be threatened once more under Bradford Council plans to pool services with centres outside the area.

The much-used Little Lane Children's Centre in Ilkley, and Menston and Burley Children's Centre, were spared from Council cuts earlier this year, following a petition signed by almost 500 local people, and an allocation of £3 million from Bradford Schools Forum to keep centres across the district open for another year.

But in a briefing session this week, councillors were told closures have not been ruled out - as consultation begins over plans to re-organise children's centres across the district.

Bradford Council today (July 31) launches a public consultation on plans to create "clusters" of children's centres, in a bid to cut down management and other costs, and save the authority £2.4 million.

Little Lane and Menston and Burley children's centres could pool resources with centres in Baildon, Shipley and the Bingley area under the proposals.

The proposal is to reorganise the authority's 41 Ofsted-registered children’s centres into seven or 12 Ofsted registered children’s centre clusters, with one or more designated ‘official’ children’s centres plus outreach sites across each of the clusters.

However, a Wharfedale councillor instrumental in campaigning to save the centres earlier this year fears families could end up being bussed out to other areas.

Councillor Jackie Whiteley (Con, Wharfedale) was among councillors at a briefing and question and answer session this week, and heard closures were not being ruled out by the Council.

"I have to say I was disappointed when I went to the presentation about what is likely to happen," she said.

"In Wharfedale, centres such as Menston and Burley are going to be part of a bigger cluster, but it's not been decided which is the key locality. What they're doing is giving responsibility for allocating the services to to whichever become the centre point of the cluster."

Mention was also made at the session of bussing people to other centres to access services, Coun Whiteley says.

Ilkley ward councillor, Anne Hawkesworth, is also calling for more information on the proposals.

"I'm not clear what it really means for the valley," she said.

The children's centres house services for pregnant women and families with children up to the age of five.

Services range from midwifery and health visiting clinics, parenting support, and early education and learning, to information, advice and guidance, support to return to work and family support at times of need

No public consultation sessions are currently planned in Wharfedale itself.

The Council's Executive Member for Children's Services, Councillor Ralph Berry, told the Gazette the aim is to provide services where they are needed, and cut down on overheads such as the cost of managing centres individually.

He said: "The needs of Bradford's families are changing and at the same time our funding from Central Government has been cut. This means we need to make changes so that Bradford's children's centres are able to carry on supporting children and families, particularly those who need it the most."

The next consultation sessions take place: today (Thursday July 31) at Jacobs Well reception, Bradford, from 1pm to 2.30pm, at Shipley Library from 10am to 11.30am on Saturday August 16, and at Keighley Civic Centre from 6pm to 7.30pm on Wednesday August 27.

More details are also available online at bradford.gov.uk.

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