Hundreds respond to plan to close children’s centres

MORE than 700 responses have been made to a consultation which could see up to 17 children’s centres close.

Central Bedfordshire Council (CBC) has concluded a consultation on three options for the future of its children’s centres.

One option is to close all but five of its 22 Sure Start centres, including Flying Start in Henlow, Orchard in Shefford, Red Bear in Stotfold, and Arlesey Meadows.

Another option is to close eight centres – including those in Henlow and Stotfold – and transfer these resources to the remaining 14 centres.

The council has admitted that both options could leave recently funded buildings redundant, and that the Department for Education may ask for the money back that was spent on creating the axed centres.

CBC’s final option is to keep all 22 children’s centres open, but consolidate the centres into nine clusters operating a ‘hub and spoke’ model of service delivery.

Cllr Mark Versallion, CBC’s executive member for children’s services, said: “We are at present analysing the information gathered.

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“These centres are a key part of our early intervention work to improve the life chances for children across Central Bedfordshire. By supporting families early on, either through parenting advice or signposting to benefits, health and other services, we can help tackle issues such as poverty, ill health and low educational achievement.

“This consultation was about making sure the money we spend on this service makes the greatest difference to the lives of children and families who most need our support.

“The full results of the consultation will be published when it goes to the Children’s Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee on November 29.”

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