Concern over changes to children’s centre services in Northamptonshire ahead of crucial decision

Parents from Camrose children's centre and councillors campaign against changes to services last year
Parents from Camrose children's centre and councillors campaign against changes to services last year

More than half the people surveyed about changes to children’s centre in Northamptonshire did not think the proposals would provide better support for families in need.

Northamptonshire County Council wants to use libraries as a base for delivering some of the centres’ current services while using the centres themselves to provide targeted support for families in need. It wants to change the opening hours at 25 children’s centres and move five more.

It described the results of a survey as “a concern” but a report to go before councillors next Tuesday states that the reduction in hours will “allow funding to be re-directed toward the delivery of outreach sessions and home visits, directly working with families in need of early help and targeted support”.

The five centres, now run by Action for Children or Spurgeons, include Highfield in Wellingborough, Nene Lakes in Earls Barton, Manor in Raunds, Brixworth in Daventry and Roade in South Northamptonshire.

Both discussions follow a six-week public consultation last year, during which more than 650 people responded to an online survey. A further 124 attended a series of meetings about the plans in children’s centres around the county.

County council deputy leader and cabinet member for children’s services, Heather Smith, said: “We are committed to delivering the highest quality services for children and families across Northamptonshire and we believe the proposed changes to opening hours and venues will enable us to provide those services in the right place at the right time.

“The new model implemented last year to deliver universal children’s services such as information and advice, registration services and activities such as Rhymetime in our libraries means some children’s centre buildings are not needed to the same extent as before.

“Unlike some other local authorities, we are not reducing our spending on children’s centres. But by reducing opening hours, and in five cases changing the venue, our two providers Action for Children and Spurgeons can focus more of their time and funding on providing help to families where they most need it – in community centres or in some cases in their homes.”

Many of the comments received during the consultation related to wider issues concerning children’s centres and the council has said it is currently drawing up an action plan to address some of these concerns.