Half of all children's centres in Essex to close

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Following a two-year consultation, Essex County Council has decided to close 38 of its 75 children's centres.

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The Meadows Children's Centre in Harlow, Essex, is to be turned into a 'family hub'

Currently there are 36 ‘main’ children's centres and 38 ‘delivery sites' across the county.

Following a consultation into the future running of children’s centres, a decision has been made by Essex County Council to close 38 children's centres before April, leaving just 37 centres.

The council’s consultation into the future of well-being and family support took place between 15 February - 10 April last year. A review was then undertaken on where families access services, how current buildings are being used, and areas where more services should be delivered.

Of the remaining settings, 12 will be turned into ‘family hubs’, one in each district, managed by Barnardo’s in partnership with Virgin Care, as reported by Nursery World in December. These centres will be supported by 25 ‘family hub delivery sites’, along with a number of ‘local, outreach sites’ - locations could include libraries and existing community buildings.

Under the new model, the centres will provide a range of services for families with children from before birth to the age of 19.

The council is currently deciding whether the buildings that are being de-registered as children's centres could be used to provide more childcare places.

Essex County Council told Nursery World that with the changes, the majority of parents will not notice any difference as children’s centre sites may be retained as ‘family hub delivery sites’ providing the same or similar services. Where buildings are no longer used in the model, it said there will continue to be locally delivered services for families, as other local community venues and family home will be used instead.

The council is currently in talks with staff about their future employment.

Councillor Dick Madden, Essex County Council’s cabinet member for adults and children, said, ‘This flexible and innovative way of working is about providing services without walls and ensuring we are reaching those families who need support the most.

‘Families will still have easy access to local services, but staff will also be able to reach priority groups who do not currently use children’s centres, whether that is in a local clinic, play area or their own front room.

‘The new model comes after we spent about two years talking to families across the county about how health and family support services could be improved.

‘We also held a public consultation on planned changes to children’s centres, making a number of changes to the original proposals before formally approving the new family support model last June.

‘Children’s centres will be renamed as family hubs, reflecting their new role to coordinate a much wider range of services for families with children from pre-birth to the age of 19 (25 for children and young people with additional needs).’

Harlow

Under the move by the county council, one area of Essex, Harlow, is to lose two of its five children’s centres.

ABC Children's Centre (delivery site) and Burnt Mill (delivery site) are to close.

The council is currently in talks with Burnt Mill Academy about the future of the Burnt Mill site.

Treehouse Children’s Centre, Potter Street Children's Centre and The Meadows (pictured) will remain open. Treehouse will be the main 'family hub', while The Meadows and Potter Street children's centres will become 'delivery sites'.

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