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Plan for children's centres sparks fears

Parents and carers have raised concerns over Solihull Council's plan to close all of its 14 dedicated children's centres in the borough.

Parents and carers have raised concerns over Solihull Council’s plan to close all of its 14 dedicated children’s centres in the borough.

Council bosses, who are facing a £600,000 in their budget, say the centres are too costly to run and believe the services can still be offered elsewhere in the community.

Following the consultation, which ended on July 6, residents have raised fears that the closure of the purpose built buildings could affect the quality of services.

A Solihull Council spokesman said the authority is having to make ‘difficult choices’ during ‘a very challenging financial position’ in the public sector.

“Lots of respondents were understandably concerned about the closure of children’s centre buildings and how using alternative venues could affect quality of services or travel costs incurred,” the spokesman added.

“Although most seemed to recognise that if buildings did need to reduce then it would be sensible to retain them in geographical areas of greatest need rather than the situation of having none at all.”

The council is also looking at the option of retaining the centres in only the most deprived areas of the borough, like Chelmsley Wood, Smith’s Wood, Kingshurst and Mill Lodge.

The spokesman added: “Responses were positive about the council’s proposals to improve support for younger children and their families – especially improving information for families, targeted family support and integrated working. Almost two-thirds of responses were also positive about helping local people to become community champions, although recognising that this wouldn’t suit every parent.”

The council said it has had a ‘very good’ response rate to the first part of the consultation on the plans.

This included 135 responses and 110 from parents and carers who attended a consultation event or sent in their questionnaire.

The council has allowed an extra three months to review the outcomes of the consultation and to use this to influence the design of the future service.

The council’s Scrutiny Committee will look at the draft service specifications towards the end of September, before the Cabinet member decision, with the new structure set to be in place by July 1, 2015.

 

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