Saturday, 21 October 2017

Ideas wanted to keep children’s centre open

PARENTS and carers are being urged to have their say on what services they would like to

PARENTS and carers are being urged to have their say on what services they would like to see at the Henley children’s centre.

A new model for the Rainbow Children’s Centre is being developed in response to Oxfordshire County Council’s decision to cut funding to all the county’s children’s centres after March 31.

Henley Baptist Church has proposed turning the centre at the d:two centre in Upper Market Place into a “healthy living space”.

But Sara Abey, who chairs Henley Town Council’s children centre group, says this would not fully meet the needs of the present users and wants to explore more options.

She particularly wants to hear the views of carers of pre-school children.



Councillor Abey said: “We’re supposed to have 900 pre-school children in Henley so we need a wider feedback to really understand the needs. The purpose of our work is to find a solution and ways to provide services. In order to do that we need to understand what we need to provide.”

She said the church’s idea was “brilliant” but added: “It acknowledges that it is unwilling to provide all the children’s centre services.

“We are obliged to investigate what additional options are available.”

Cllr Abey wants to produce a business plan to make a funding bid to the county council’s £1million transition fund in January.

Her group would have to show there is a “demonstrable need” for a children’s centre in Henley and that if one is provided, it will be used to near full capacity.

In a letter to this week’s Henley Standard the church says that it wants to continue the tradition of making the facility available to the wider community. Its plans would mean the integration of the children’s centre into the d:two centre, which it owns, to develop a “more flexible space” for children, young people and families.

The letter says: “In order for the church to maintain the facility and equipment to a high standard and also provide appropriate supervision and management there will need to be a charge made for some sessions.”

The living space, which would be managed by the church, would cost almost £30,000 to set up and run for the first 12 months.

It is proposed to offer soft play sessions for all as well as targeted groups and keep fit sessions and to host children’s parties and classes by personal trainers for their clients, which could generate income.

Some toys would be retained and there would be mobile soft play equipment for pre-school children which would be stowed away to leave space for other activities. There would also be exercise mats and basic keep-fit equipment that could be used by parents, children and young people, supervised by trained staff.

The space would also be available for group meetings and discussions. These would be designed around healthy living, food and nutrition and tackling negative eating habits and other addictions.

The children’s centre is currently run by Action for Children.

Email ideas to the council working group with the subject line “children’s centre feedback” to jwheeler@ henleytowncouncil.gov.uk



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