Monday, 16 July 2018

Childrens centres under threat

THREE children?s centres in the Henley could be axed under cost-cutting measures by Oxfordshire County Council

THREE children?s centres in the Henley could be axed under cost-cutting measures by Oxfordshire County Council.

The authority currently runs 44 centres and seven early intervention hubs but wants to replace these with eight children and family centres in order to save £8million.

It means the children?s centres at the d:two centre in Market Place, Henley, Chiltern Edge School in Sonning Common and Chalgrove and Watlington are under threat.

This proposal is one of three options being considered by the council and its ?preferred? choice.

The council insists it will still have a presence in all communities and focus on the most vulnerable children and families but under its favoured model the closest centre would be in Didcot. The others would be in Witney, Bicester, Abingdon, Banbury and Oxford (three).

The council admits it could disadvantage rural communities by locating the centres in urban areas.

The move would also mean the council ceased to provide or commission universal services such as stay and play or open access youth sessions.

The council says its proposals are in response to large cuts to local council funding and ?stark financial challenges?. Children?s centres offer activities for under-fives and information and support for parents. Early intervention hubs, introduced in 2011, are designed to bring together services supporting children and families.

In the second option there would also be eight centres but the council would continue to provide or commission limited universal services.

Under a third option there would be six centres. This would release £1million a year for grant funding to the voluntary and community sector to deliver services for families across Oxfordshire.

The council?s cabinet is expected to approve holding a public consultation on the plans when it meets on Tuesday. The consultation is likely be from later this month to the end of the year.

There will be public meetings and the ability to respond online. Individual families who use children?s centres and early intervention hubs will be asked for their views.

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