First published Friday 13 February 2015 in News
Wirral Globe: by Emma Rigby, Senior Reporter
PARENTS, carers and families will have the chance to have their say on plans to shape the future of early years and children’s services across Wirral when a consultation launches on Monday.
The consultation will be asking for people’s views on a review of the service which took place last year.
Part of the plans are to reduce the borough’s 16 children’s centres to four “hubs”, along with another four retained for outreach provision.
Under the plans, the remaining sites will either be transferred to schools for nursery care or the council will be forced to ask other organisations to take them over.
Pre-consultation has already taken place to raise awareness of need to review the service, and the information gathered as part of that process has helped shape the proposals that are now being consulted on.
Engagement events will be held at a variety of venues, and at a variety of times, so that as many families, parents and carers can give their views.
In addition, partner and stakeholder workshops will be held to ensure that everyone can help influence and have their say on the new model.
A report to September’s cabinet meeting said the current position of sustaining 16 designated children’s centres that “all deliver the core purpose offer is not viable”.
The authority is looking to cut £2m from the service’s current total budget of £6m.
Announcing the consultation, Cllr Tony Smith, Wirral’s cabinet member for children and family services said: “Wirral’s children’s centres play a significant role in providing effective early childhood services for families and targeted services for those in need of additional support.
“The review of Early Years and Children’s Centre services, which took place earlier this year, recognises the important role the centres have to play in narrowing the equality gap and improving school readiness for some of our most disadvantaged youngsters.
“In putting forward this consultation, our aim is to get the views of as many people as possible to ensure that the services we offer, and the providers of those services, remain progressive and fit for purpose.”
The review advocates a new approach to delivering Children’s Centre services in Wirral. Recommendations include:
Children’s Centres to play a key role in providing targeted early help to families who need it, to ensure services are delivered to those children and families who need them most.
Better working and partnerships to be further developed with partners and other services/organisations that provide early childhood services. (eg Health & JobCentre Plus)
Outreach teams to be developed to operate across Constituencies based on levels of need.
A new approach to Children’s Centre service delivery to be developed. In each Constituency, one main Children’s Centre hub to offer a full service and one outreach/satellite centre. The remaining buildings will be shared with partners and offer a reduced Children’s Centre service.
The proposals outlined in the review, if implemented, will:
Keep a main Children’s Centre in each of the four constituency areas
Ensure that every family with children under five and parents expecting a new baby still have a named Children’s Centre
Make the services available for young children and their families much more joined up across health, education and social care
Target services and support those that need the service most
Work closely with partners to make best use of the Children’s Centre buildings