Thursday, 23 September 2021

Children’s centre closure won’t end all services

THE Henley children’s centre will close in March but some of the services could be retained.

THE Henley children’s centre will close in March but some of the services could be retained.

The centre at the d:two centre in Market Place has lost its funding as part of multi-million pound cuts being made by Oxfordshire County Council.

The children’s centre in Sonning Common will also close. Both are run by the charity Action for Children.

The council is hoping that the Nomad youth and community project, which is also based at d:two and used to run the centre until it lost the contract in 2013, will help.

David Nimmo Smith, who is Henley’s representative on the council, said: “There will be services provided in Henley after March that are currently being provided. I do not know which ones and how but there are going to be certain services.



“There have been discussions with Nomad, the town council and users to try to map out how to deal with it. We’ve got six months to sort it out. It gives us time to talk with each other and find out which non-statutory services from that building can continue and how.

“What we are doing at county is looking to see if some things can be run from the library, such as a reading programme.”

A working group has been set up with representatives of the county council, Henley Town Council and Nomad.

Sue Prior, leader of Nomad, told town councillors last month that the charity might be willing to take back responsibility for the centre.

Roger Cole, pastor of Henley Baptist Church, which owns the d:two centre, said: “Discussions are going on with the town council and Nomad, and some others, so that the building will continue to have child-friendly use after March. We’re hoping some of the activities might continue as long as we can fund it between us and the town council.

“We have got £40,000 of our loan on the building to pay off. We need funding to run those activities and pay off the loan or be able to find a way to keep the payments going.

“It is only discussions at the moment so we’re not clear on where it is going to come from.”

From March, the county council will deliver children’s services from eight centres across Oxfordshire rather than the current 44 but the nearest to Henley would be in Didcot, 21 miles away.

There will also be two “shared locality bases” and eight outreach centres. The outreach work will be for families who need the most intensive support on issues such as domestic violence, substance misuse and parental mental health as well as readiness for school and parenting advice.

The new service would offer outreach to all parts of the county, with targeted group sessions and some open access sessions.

The county council has created a £1million fund to help some of the centres develop community-run programmes.

Laurie Long, operational director at Action for Children in Oxfordshire, said: “Our absolute priority is the wellbeing of the children and families we work with across the county.

“We know that getting children and families help early can significantly improve life chances.

“It is clear to see how valued children’s centres are within their community, operating as vital hubs linking families with health, social care and other services.

“We understand the difficulties faced by local authorities when tasked with reducing costs so we will be continuing to work closely with Oxfordshire County Council to ensure any future model meets the needs of the children and families we support.”



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