Major cuts to Essex children's centre services

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Essex County Council has named the children’s centres that will close, following a consultation into the future of the centres.

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Essex County Council County Hall

Last October, the council put out plans for consultation to close 11 of its 85 children’s centres. It also proposed moving to a ‘Main site and Designated delivery site’ model in a bid to make savings of £2.5m between 2014 and 2016.

All 85 of the county’s children’s centres are managed by the charities 4Children, Barnardos and Spurgeons.

While Essex County Council claims it is closing just three children’s centres, minutes from a cabinet meeting show that seven others will be de-registered and turned into ‘outreach venues’.

Holland Valley Children’s Centre in Clacton (North-East Essex), Little Buddies Children’s Centre in Buckhurst Hill (West Essex) and Little Treehouse Children’s Centre in Benfleet will close. 

The children’s centres that will be used for outreach services only are: ABC Together Children’s Centres in Clacton, Manningtree Children’s Centre in Mistley, Highwoods Children’s Centre in Colchester, Little Lanes Children’s Centre in Braintree and Stock Children’s Centre in Chelmsford, Sunflower Children’s Centre in Harlow, and Ark Children’s Centre in Brentwood.

The county’s remaining 75 centres will operate under a ‘Main site and Designated Delivery site’ model.

According to the council, ‘Main sites’ will be open for drop-in visits and service delivery. Services will be available to families for 50 hours a week through a combination of centre open hours and telephone service operating times.

‘Designated delivery sites’ will be open for a set number of hours, varying from five to 35 hours per week based on local need.

Dick Madden, cabinet member for families and children, said, ‘On 21 January myself and my cabinet colleagues approved the changes to children’s centre service delivery. We held a consultation exercise and following this made a number of changes to our proposals including reducing the number of closures from 11 to three. 

‘The new children’s centre model will make savings of  £2.3m which is necessary at a time when Essex County Council needs to make savings of at least £235m by 2016-17. I am confident that despite the savings, we will ensure a good quality of service – allowing for more flexibility and the ability to provide outreach work where families need it most.’