Final decision 'on hold' over future of Doncaster children's centres

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Doncaster Council's plans to cut the number of local youth and children’s centres it provides have met with strong opposition from local people.

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Doncaster children's centres are under review

The ‘multi-use’ proposal includes several schools taking on facilities and services that were previously offered by the council.

Nearly 2,000 people took part in a consultation on the plans and 66 per cent said they did not want to lose services from their area. Moving services to new areas did not please 57 per cent of those questioned, who said that it would be a significant barrier to accessing them.

With this research in mind, a council report stated that the cabinet had a ‘preference to retain children’s centres wherever possible and for those to be utilised as multi-use where required’.

Following a meeting last week the cabinet has asked officers to do some more detailed work on the plans before making any final decisions.

Eleanor Brazil, director learning and opportunities: children and young people, said, ‘The mayor and council are committed to developing our early help services to ensure we provide coordinated and timely support with our partners to those families who need this.’

The proposed project will help to reduce spending over the next three years by making alternative arrangements to provide services for young people.

Doncaster Council currently has 40 children’s services buildings and centres, which will be cut dramatically under the proposals.

Ms Brazil said that the council would use the consultation results to inform further decisions regarding the development of children’s services.

‘We want to stress that our aim is to ensure that this is about delivering services rather than maintaining buildings.  Services for families will continue to be offered across the borough, but more focused on those who need it most and may be delivered in new and innovative ways,’ she said.

The move comes just three years after the council took over all 21 children’s centres, which were previously run by Action for Children, school governing bodies and the NHS foundation trust.

Since July, the council has been working to canvass opinion for its Early Help Strategy, a programme aimed to shape the way services for young people and children will be delivered.

Doncaster Children’s Services Trust, an independent body, took control of the council’s children’s services department on 1 October.

Last year, the then education secretary Michael Gove ruled that an independent trust be put in control of children’s social work and care operations, following the deaths of seven children in the district through abuse or neglect over five years.

The council has maintained responsibility for schools and education.

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