Agenda item

Children's Centre Consultation

-           Strategic Director of Children and Young People’s Services to report.


Further to Minute No. 167 of the meeting of the Cabinet held on 15th January, 2014, The Leader, introduced a report by the Strategic Director of Children and Young People’s Services, which approved a request to complete a statutory public consultation in relation to proposed changes to Rotherham’s twenty-two designated Children’s Centres.   The proposals were to:-


·                Close thirteen designated Children’s Centre buildings with a reduction to nine Children’s Centre buildings across the Borough.

·                The remaining nine Children’s Centre buildings to be clustered to form seven designated registered Children Centres across the Borough with an increased size of reach areas.

·                The creation of a Foundation Years’ Service across health, social care and education services.


The purpose of this report was to inform Cabinet of the outcomes from the statutory public consultation, which took place between 3rd February and 30th April, 2014. The proposal would enable the Council to realise savings of £2.2 million in order to achieve the required Early Years and Child Care services revenue reductions (including Children Centres). The original budget for the Children’s Centres in 2011/12 was £5.045m.  The removal of the Early Intervention Grant in June, 2010 followed by a series of reductions in Central Government funding, had resulted in the Children’s Centre budget being reduced. The budget for Children’s Centre from April, 2015/16 would be £2,025,474. 


The consultation process was extensive with fourteen formal public consultation meetings being completed across the Borough, within this period of time. Views and comments at these meetings were received from a range of attendees.  These included parents and children, members of the public and local community, staff, child care providers, unions, Head Teachers, Councillors and other organisations. 


In addition to the fourteen public consultation meetings, people could access and complete the online questionnaire survey on the Council’s website. Completed hard copies of the questionnaire survey were also received, as well as comments via email and formal letters, reports and a powerpoint presentation. Three petitions against the closures of Children’s Centres were received from three Children’s Centres.  People made their views known in person at a Children’s Centre of their own choice. Press releases were issued and media interviews also took place. Articles were also published in a range of stakeholder newsletters in order to maximise publicity of the consultation and the proposals.  A total of 1746 people responded to the on line consultation survey questionnaire.  The majority of responses were from parents or carers (81.6%) and 82% are using a Children’s Centre at least once a week. In addition twenty-three emails were also received and five letters.


One hundred and eighty six respondents said they would be willing to take on a centre building proposed to close, and deliver either childcare provision and/or Foundation Years services.  One hundred and forty two respondents said they would be willing to take on childcare provision in a centre building proposed to close.  However, it was important to note that only one hundred and one of all respondents left contact details.  In addition thirty one emails/letters were also received expressing an interest in taking on a Children’s Centre building and/or day care provision. Expressions of interest were made by a range of individuals, staff; schools and organisations expressing an initial interest in taking on a Children Centre building.  A formal application process would be followed from the 1st July 2014.


In order that a more even geographical distribution was achieved, enabling more children and families, including the most vulnerable, to more readily access a children’s centre building, further consideration needed to be given to the initial proposal.


On the basis of the rationale used throughout this public consultation; where Centre buildings were proposed to remain open (if they have more than 400 children living in the 30% most deprived SOA), the proposal should be reconsidered to include enabling a further three Children Centre buildings to remain open. This would support respondents’ concerns regarding travel and equity of geographical spread of proposed centre buildings in some areas across the Borough.


The additional proposed Centres to remain open were Wath Victoria Children’s Centre building (374 children living in the most 30% SOA); Dinnington Children’s Centre building (352 children living in the most 30% SOA) and Park View Children’s Centre building (345 children living in the most 30% SOA.  These three Children’s Centres were the next Centres which had the highest number of children living in the 30% most deprived SOA.


This option to increase the number of Children’s Centres from the proposed nine to twelve would cost an additional £350K.  To address this shortfall a further report would be brought to Cabinet assessing the options for budget adjustment, Service re-configuration and exploration of possible income generation.


If Option 2 was chosen this would result in one or more Children’s Centre building being located in each of the individual seven Health locality team areas, and seven Area Assembly boundaries.  This addressed some respondents’ views regarding the need to align Children’s Centre buildings to both Health and Area Assemblies.   If Dinnington Children’s Centre building remained open, this would mean that each of the eleven deprived neighbourhood communities would have a Children Centre building.  If Wath Children’s Centre building remained open this would take into consideration the particularly high prevalence of disabled parents in the Wath area.


Cabinet Members pointed out that the reductions made by Central Government to the Children’s Centre Grant had meant that changes had to be made going forward.  However, on the evidence of the concerns expressed and the receipt of the 6,000 signature petition received by the Leader of the Council prior to the meeting taking place, increasing the number of Children’s Centre buildings from nine to twelve would raise the number of families and children able to access a Children’s Centre building in their locality, including the most vulnerable.


Resolved:-  That the  proposal of retaining three additional Children Centre buildings Wath Victoria Children’s Centre (Wentworth North); Dinnington Children’s Centre (Rother Valley South) and Park View Children’s Centre (Rotherham North)  in addition to the original proposal be approved.

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