Bolton Council has launched a review into the future of the borough’s Early Years services and Children’s Centres.
Proposals to change some of the locations and the services delivered at the centres have been approved for public consultation at a meeting of The Cabinet (Monday, July 4).
The council must make savings of £43 million by 2017 due to budget cuts by central government. These proposals would save £1.47 million if approved.
Local authorities have a duty to provide sufficient children’s centres and make services available that are aimed at helping families in most need.
So the council is proposing to establish a new, integrated ‘Start Well’ service which would see the merger of the following teams: Children’s Centres; Early Years and Childcare; and Family Support.
These teams would operate from seven Start Well community hubs across the south, north and west areas of the borough.
All remaining children’s centres would continue to be used for wider community use and be linked to a Start Well community hub, but managed by a school or third sector partner. This would present partners with the opportunity to expand the services delivered if desired.
In addition, services at Bromley Cross and Horwich and Blackrod Library sites would continue to be delivered but at a reduced level.
Cabinet Member for Education, Schools, Safeguarding and Looked After Children, Cllr Ann Cunliffe, said: “Children’s Centres have, for the past few years, provided vital services for our most disadvantaged residents and been a valuable asset to our communities.
“It is with much regret and with a heavy heart that we now have no choice but to reconsider the buildings we have and look at ways we can save money. That said, we are working more effectively with partners and this gives us the opportunity to merge services within the council as well as offer a holistic service with health professionals.
“It is important to stress that no buildings are ‘closing’, but in order to make the savings required we must seek alternative uses for them. There would still be essential services provided in areas that need them most and outreach work will continue with the most vulnerable families. It is essential that we remain committed to getting our youngsters school ready, and bringing together the right advice, support and professionals under one roof will help us achieve this.”
Under the proposals, new Start Well hubs will be established in the following children’s centres: Great Lever; Tonge; Oldham’s; Oxford Grove and Alexandra. Two additional hubs would be created at Winifred Kettle Centre, in Westhoughton and, subject to funding, at King Street Centre in Farnworth.
Harvey Children’s Centre is proposed to continue to deliver nursery places and specialist services for vulnerable families.
Staff members affected by the proposals have been briefed and it is hoped that the majority of savings can be met through vacant posts, voluntary severance and voluntary early retirement.
Interested parties can have their say on the Children's Centres page of our website and will have until September 2 to make their views known.
Final proposals will be brought back before The Cabinet in October.