Children's Centres Consultation

Closed 6 Mar 2019

Opened 12 Dec 2018

Results updated 29 Aug 2019

Some 10 public consultation meetings were held in January and early February, nine of them in Children’s Centres. Some 1,170 completed consultation responses were received online, along with 26 emails/letters. In addition, four petitions were received with a total of over 4,000 signatures between them.

Respondents generally opposed: the budget reduction that led to the consultation; the closure of centres; and any reduction in staffing. More specific themes included:

  • Opposition to changing the designation of Aldersbrook Children’s Centre from a “hub” to a “spoke”;
  • If staffing levels were to be reduced the focus of reduction should be on management rather than delivery staff;
  • On balance, respondents favour charging partners for use of Children’s Centre premises, but only if they can afford it / at low levels/ as an alternative to charging users;
  • Opposition to introducing charging for attendance at sessions;
  • If charging were to be introduced it should be at the minimum level and if charging were introduced there were queries about availability of the services most in demand and about how the charging arrangement would work in practice;
  • Divergent views on whether or not less well-off familiesshould be entitled to free attendance at sessions;
  • Amongst those who favoured free attendance for some families there was a view that women in the first six months after giving birth should be able to access Children’s Centre services for free.

Following this extensive consultation, the council made a number of changes to the delivery of Children's Centres in Redbridge at Cabinet on 23 April 2019. Full details, including the response to the concerns raised throughout the consultation process, are included in the Cabinet paper.

A flat rate charge of £2 per family will be introduced for attendance at sessions which are delivered by Children’s Centre staff and which are open to all. The service will remain free to families using the following criteria:

  • Those families who meet the criteria that would entitle them to free funding of early education and childcare if they had a two year-old child;
  • Those families who are supported by the Council’s Early Help or statutory safeguarding services;
  • All families throughout the six months after giving birth;
  • Those families who are accessing support services from a domestic violence refuge.

The Operational Director of Education and Inclusion will negotiate with partner agencies who use Children’s Centre premises for their service delivery about the introduction of a charge for their usage.

Aldersbrook Children’s Centre will be retained as one of the eight ‘hub’ Children’s Centres in Redbridge so that it continues to deliver a full range of services to residents.

A change in opening hours will be made at Aldersbrook Children’s Centre with effect from September 2019, which will see this Centre close when service delivery concludes each day;

The four “spoke” Children’s Centres with the lowest levels of resident use (Chadwell, Forest, Oakdale, Winston Way) will close with effect from September 2019.

The majority of the required Children’s Centres savings will be delivered through changes to staffing structures.

Files:

Links:

Overview

The Council currently operates 21 Children’s Centres across the borough. There are 8 main hub centres which are open and accessible all day Monday to Friday and 13 smaller centres which are open on an ‘as and when’ basis to allow for certain services and activities to be delivered. The take up rates for Children’s Centre services in Redbridge continues to be high. The most recent access data shows that between August 2017 and August 2018, Redbridge Children’s Centres were used by almost 25,000 young children and their families accessing universal services and a further 18,000 children accessing targeted activities.

Despite significant budget pressures the Council has managed to retain a borough-wide universal service, free at the point of access, for much longer than many other boroughs. 

The budget challenges faced by the Council over the next 3-5 years means that the current model of service provision is unaffordable. In addition, there is a need to further increase in the proportion of take up and access from targeted families in the more disadvantaged areas of the borough.

It would be useful to read the full options document (below) before responding to this consultation.

Your browser does not support inline PDF viewing.Please download the PDF.

Why we are consulting

Continued reductions in Government funding for the Council overall, and specifically into the provision of services for under 5s, means that the Council needs to consider re-designing the service offer and structure of Children’s Centres in the future.

The Council’s Medium Term Financial Strategy includes a reduction in Council funding of £500k per annum for the Children’s Centre service. Taking into account other budget factors, officers estimate that the Children’s Centres service will face an overall funding shortfall of around £650k, which amounts to 30% of the current budget. The scale of this reduction means that it will not be possible to provide the same level of service on the current funding model.

Despite having a reduced level of financial resources, we want our Children’s Centres to continue to have a positive impact on children and families across the borough, with the fullest possible Children’s Centre offer still being available in Redbridge in the future. We would like your views on our options for continuing to run a high-quality Children’s Centre service with less budget, as well as other ways in which we could make budget savings within the Children’s Centre service.

What happens next

Your feedback on this consultation will be reported back to the Council’s Cabinet in March 2019 to help them make a decision about any changes to the Children’s Centre service.  Any changes would be likely to take effect from September 2019.

Areas

  • All Areas

Audiences

  • Children
  • Young people
  • All residents
  • Parents
  • Community and Voluntary Sector
  • Schools
  • Council staff
  • Early years practitioners

Interests

  • Children and Young People
  • Schools
  • Children's Centres
  • Nurseries
  • Children's Social Work
  • Children in Care
  • Safeguarding
  • Children with disabilities
  • Early Years