A consultation has begun on proposed changes to the 14 children’s centres in Swindon, which provide information, advice and services for parents of children under five.
Following discussions with the centre providers, the council plans to re-organise the centres so that they work more closely together and resources are targeted in areas where there is the most need.
Resources have increasingly not matched local demand, with the busiest children’s centre – Butterflies at Abbey Meads Primary School – receiving only the fourth highest level of funding, despite providing services to over 1000 more children than the second-busiest centre.
The consultation runs for six weeks until 16 August. Background information and how to respond can be found online at www.swindon.gov.uk/childrenscentreconsultation There will also be information about the consultation at each of the children’s centres. Consultation meetings have also been arranged at all the centres, primarily for parents who regularly use those centres, and five public meetings have also been organised.
In the past decade there has been a significant increase in the number of children under five, due to a rising birth rate and the expansion of the town, particularly in the north and south.
There has also been an increase in demand for specialist services, with more children suffering from abuse and neglect, and more children under ten coming into care following family breakdowns.
Against this background, council resources have become increasingly stretched and less money is available.
The Leader of Swindon Borough Council, Cllr David Renard, said: “We have to take a fresh look at the way we are providing support to families with children under five. Heads of children’s centres and the council have worked together to discuss how to deliver the best possible services for children and families with reduced resources and increasing demand.
“The work done by children’s centres is hugely valuable, but the way we currently provide the service is not sustainable, and no longer in the best interests of particularly vulnerable children in meeting their needs.
“We have come up with proposals to address these issues and we need people’s views on them, so I would urge anyone with an interest in this issue to let us know what they think.”