Nearly a quarter of centres identified as no longer needed Children’s centres set to shut in fresh council cuts
More than 20 children’s centres across Kent could close under new cost-cutting proposals by Kent County Council.
The authority said it had identified 23 centres out of 97 across the county which were no longer needed.
To make up the loss from the closure of those centres, council chiefs are suggesting 16 “lead centres” that already provide services for a larger number of families.
These would coordinate smaller centres, which would be linked together.
The bigger centres, which would be known as Children’s Centre Plus, would have to work more closely with GPs, schools, voluntary services and health visitors so families got the support they needed.
The list of centres that have been proposed for closure in clude Cherry Blossom and Squirrel Lodge in Ashford and New Romney, The Village or Folkestone Early Years in Shepway.
Along with those proposed closures, 13 centres could run on a part-time basis, and KCC might decide to let other organisations bid to run them. That could mean they were relocated as well. These centres include Dymchurch, Hythe Bay and Lydd’le Stars in Shepway.
The authority hopes a reduction in building and management costs would save around £1.5m over the next financial year – on top of the £1.4m it has to save by the end of this year.
Cabinet member for specialist children’s services councillor Jenny Whittle said: “We believe that the ones that should remain open are those in communities with high levels of need, but we want to make sure that all parents can access a children’s centre within a 15-mile drive of their home.
“Most of the centres that we’ve identified as suitable for closure are those that operate on a parttime basis.
“We’re also making a significant expansion of the healthvisitor workforce in Kent, which will see health visitors and children centre staff going into family homes and seeing some of the most vulnerable parents – the least likely to walk through the door of a children’s centre.
“We’ve reached our decision by looking at the rate of usage, and the majority of users are accessing centres nearby. So where we know the footfall going through children centres are low, the majority are using other centres and the levels of need is low, we believe they’re potential candidates for closure.”
KCC has launched a 12-week consultation on the plans.
To have your say, visit www. kent.gov.uk/childrenscentres
Councillor Jenny Whittle at the inquiry