Fears raised as 14 children’s centres face axe

Coun Olivia Rowley
Coun Olivia Rowley
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THE majority of children’s centres in Wakefield district could be closed if proposals for a radical shake-up of children’s services go ahead.

Wakefield Council, which must cut £61m from its budgets by the end of next year, currently runs 23 children’s centres across the district.

A report to next Tuesday’s meeting of the council’s cabinet committee is recommending that just six main children’s centres are kept and re-named Integrated Early Help Hubs.

The hubs would be at current children’s centres at Airedale, Castleford; Oakhill at Featherstone; Pomfret in Pontefract; Cedars at Hemsworth; Sunbeam at Lupset and Castle at Sandal, Wakefield.

Three centres linked to the hubs would be Acorn at Whitwood Pinmoor at Eastmoor and Stanley at Wakefield.

The report recommends that the remaining 14 children’s centre buildings are transferred to their associated schools.

Council chiefs say the Integrated Early Help Hubs will increase the range of services families can access in their area so that support is available from pre-birth to 25 years old.

But one Wakefield Council children’s centre worker, who did not want to be named, said: “the majority of families we deal with are on low incomes or benefits. This will create geographical and financial barriers for those familes to be able to access the services they desperately need on their doorstep.”

Coun Olivia Rowley, Wakefield Council’s cabinet member for children and young people, said: “We need to be more innovative and creative in the way we deliver services for children and their families across the district.

“We spend a significant amount of our budget on the management and administration of these buildings, in addition to overhead costs. Our aim is to redistribute our resources so we can offer a more flexible and accessible service to those that need it most.

“This strengthened and coordinated approach will help us to intervene at the earliest possible opportunity to tackle emerging problems, whether this is in the early years of a child’s life, even during pregnancy, or at a later stage in their life.” If the report is approved, a public consultation will be held from July 15 until October.

Stephen Blake of the CMA  Photo: Vikki Ellis

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