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A secure future for children's centres


Cabinet to consider a new approach for the county's children's centres and £3.2m reinvestment in social workers.

The plans will go to Cabinet for approval next week, setting out how the council plans to keep all  children's centres in Gloucestershire open.

The recent consultation showed 60 per cent of feedback supported the proposals for 16 centres in the most deprived areas of the county to be expanded to become children and family centres, supporting families with children up to the age of 11. This will mean more help for the most vulnerable families and with a wider age range of children.

These 16 centres will be split across four areas; Stroud/Forest of Dean, Cheltenham/Tewkesbury, Gloucester, and the Cotswolds. Whilst the 16 centres will be a base for professionals, families can have support in their communities and homes, without being expected to travel to the centres.

The remaining 30 centres will stay open, continuing to support parents and children. These will include clubs, activities, information and health advice, known as universal services - something parents tell us they really value and need.

Currently, only 46 per cent of children under five years old in the most deprived areas of the county had contact with a children's centre during 2014/15. The proposals for a new approach to supporting these families most in need have been overwhelmingly supported by 77 per cent of responders, who stated that they thought the plans would have a positive impact.

Feedback from the consultation also showed that parents want to be more involved in the delivery of the service, with over 30 per cent of responders saying that they wanted to volunteer or support other parents.

Over 90 per cent of consultation responses said they wanted high quality health visiting to continue working with other services. This new approach will mean a successful pilot of health visiting services in specific areas will now roll out county wide.

As part of the council's commitment to ensuring high quality nursery education is available for two, three and four year olds, the council will continue to fund places in the 22 nurseries currently in children's centres and look to increase the amount of children getting access to this service. The support will use nursery education funding, which will allow them to run independently. This will help ensure Gloucestershire is ready for the 30 hours of free childcare the government is proposing.

The plans will also free up £3.2m which will be reinvested into more children's social workers, further helping those children in Gloucestershire that need the most support.

Cllr Paul McClain, cabinet member for children and families, said: "We have a choice - to close our children's centres like many other councils have done, or find a way to redesign support for our most vulnerable families. This new approach is built on what our most vulnerable families need.

"The services are not about bricks and mortar, they are about people giving and receiving support that makes a difference - be that one-one in their own homes or with other parents and carers through clubs and activities. Despite this, and despite closures elsewhere in the country, we are not closing any children's centres in Gloucestershire.

"I want to thank everyone who gave their feedback. Your views, as well as information from our centres and the families they work with, have been vital in securing the future of our children's centres."

If approved at cabinet, the new service will start from 1st April 2017.

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