Two children’s centres in Ore and West St Leonards could be closed with services relocated elsewhere as part of cost-cutting proposals.
East Sussex County Council has agreed to consult the public on its draft children’s services early help strategy for ten weeks from May to July.
As a result of the strategy £2.6m would be saved from the council’s early help budget by 2020/21.
Access to services would happen through a single point of advice and delivered in family homes and through a reduced network of 12 children’s centres and four youth centres as well as community venues where appropriate.
But as part of the draft proposals 14 children’s centres would close including those based at The Bridge Community Centre, in Priory Road, Ore, and the West St Leonards Children’s Centre in Bexhill Road.
The proposals would not affect other services provided at The Bridge. The pre-school will remain open.
These locations are seen as ‘less suitable for future services’. In all the places families would continue to receive keywork services in their homes and from nearby keywork hubs.
Family support services would also continue to be provided in these communities, nearby children’s centres, council or community buildings.
The council will seek expressions of interest from other organisations in a position to take over any of these 14 children’s centres.
But if this is not forthcoming the proposal is for these centres to close.
The strategy would also withdraw funding for ‘lower level preventative services’ to focus on the most vulnerable families, reducing management and admin support in the remaining children’s centres.
There would be a reduction in the crèche offer within children’s centres and withdrawing from open access non-targeted youth groups unless external funding is available to cover the full costs.
According to an officers’ report: “Children’s centres are as much about making appropriate integrated services available as about providing premises in particular geographical areas, however, councils should ensure that children’s centres and their services are within reasonable reach of all families with young children in urban and rural areas, taking into account distance and availability of transport.
“The guidance also provides that councils should not close an existing children’s centre site unless they can demonstrate that, where they decide to close a children’s centre site, the outcomes for children, particularly the most disadvantaged, would not be adversely affected and that the starting point should therefore be a presumption against closure.”
Services would still be available in Hastings and St Leonards: at the East Hastings Children’s Centre in Chiltern Drive, Hastings Town Children’s Centre in Waterworks Road, the Robsack Children’s Centre in Bodiam Drive and St Leonards Children’s Centre in Clyde Road.
The lead member for children and families agreed to put the early help strategy out for consultation at a meeting earlier today (Monday May 20).