Pressure grows on Leeds children's centre funding

FUNDING for the city's 56 children's centres is coming under increased pressure with £2.5m of the money allocated to them said to be under 'significant risk.'

Friday, 15th July 2016, 4:45 am
Updated Friday, 15th July 2016, 10:39 am

The figures are revealed in a new Leeds City Council report which sets out how the authority aims to find the £6.1m needed to run the centres in 2016/17.

Children’s Centres - set up to provide early years support to young families - have been closing across the country recently because of funding cuts.

A Leeds City Council report says that as part of its Child Friendly city approach it had taken a decision to maintain all 56 centres.

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The briefing for the council’s Children’s Services Scrutiny Board says that the centres were historically funded through Sure Start grants and more recently from the authority’s funding.

It says that in 2015/16 the budget was £6.3m and that in 2016/17 it will be £6,1m.

However of that £2,5m is now said to be “at significant risk,” according to the council report.

This includes £1.6m Clinical Commissioning Group funding and £900,000 from the Dedicated Schools Grant given to councils by the Department for Education.

Children’s Centres will be discussed by the scrutiny board on July 21. The board could decide to launch an inquiry into the centres’ future in the city.

Coun Lisa Mulherin, Leeds City Council’s executive member for children and families said: “Across the country, a large number of local authorities have had to reduce or close children centres as a result of government funding cuts. Despite similar challenges in Leeds we have maintained our commitment to retaining our 56 children’s centres.

“Public Health and NHS partners have helped us to fund these centres in the last few years, but with Public Health grants now having been repeatedly cut too by the government we face an even more challenging future. Ongoing, cuts to our overall funding mean that we are now looking at new ways to deliver this service.

“We are continuing discussions with our partners in health and schools to ensure that the effective practice established across the city to ensure that every child in the city gets the Best Start in life is maintained through different types of investment.”

The report on Children’s Centres in Leeds says there is strong evidence that investing in early years support results in “real gains”.

It says the centres’ work with families with young children from pregnancy through to the child reaching five years of age.

A preparation for birth course teaches parents about labour, practical care of a child, a baby’s development and about the support and networks that are available to help them.

The Ofsted inspection results of children’s centres in Leeds are said to be better than the national average with the most centres achieving either a good or outstanding rating from the watchdog.