Cuts to how family support services are delivered around the county are set to bite – with children’s centres looking a likely target.
The new Families Support Services review comes after the council agreed what it says is one of its most challenging budgets ever
The authority needs to save around £53m across all services over the next four years.
It says the review will focus primarily on the role of the 35 children’s centres across the county, the services they provide and the impact they make in helping children develop and families avoid the need for social care support in the future.
But opposition councillor, Labour’s Robin Stuchbury says he is concerned that the cuts will go too far.
He said: “The reality is that the children’s centres pick up when children are vulnerable early. Children can be vulnerable in any household and it is not income related, children’s centres have been a complete success.”
He added: “Children’s centres have saved tens of thousands of pounds from early intervention and every community needs to know that the centres are in place, and if not what is going to be put in place to make up for it.”
Cabinet member for education and skills, Zahir Mohammed said he was looking for a future model for the centres that both saved money and better targeted the people that would really benefit from the support they provide.
He said: “Our children’s centres are extremely popular in their local communities but it’s my job to make sure that they deliver services that are focussed on those children and families who really need help.
“We face difficult decisions, but if we don’t provide a more targeted service, we won’t achieve the savings we need to make - this is the reality of the difficult budget decisions the council had to make back in February. A do-nothing approach is not an option.”
He added: “At this early stage I can’t rule out options which might include possible closures in some areas, however I will ensure we explore all the different ways that they could continue going forward.”
The council says that the review will include looking at ‘variations in need’ across the county and how these could be better met, as well as how buildings could be better used.