The future of Bradley Stoke’s Sure Start Children’s Centre appears uncertain after South Gloucestershire Council announced that it is to cut funding for nine of the 15 centres it currently runs across the district.
The Council says it needs to save £1.65m from its spending on children, young people and families over the next three years as part of a plan to cut overall expenditure by £43m over the same period.
Six children’s centres in areas designated “priority neighbourhoods” (Cadbury Heath, Filton, Kingswood, Patchway, Staple Hill and Yate/Dodington) will continue to be funded by the Council, either directly or through an external provider selected in a competitive tendering process. The other nine, including Bradley Stoke, will be offered to “appropriate partner organisations” such as parish councils or charities but if none come forward, the centres will “need to be decommissioned”.
The Bradley Stoke Sure Start Centre, located within Bowsland Green Primary School, opened in early 2010. A Government capital grant was used to convert the school’s original hall, which now houses the children’s centre, and build a new hall to replace it.
The school’s management is said to feel uneasy about the prospect of an external organisation being brought in to run the children’s centre.
When funding for the new centre was announced in late 2008, the news was welcomed by local Conservative Councillors, one of whom was quoted in a press release as saying “there’s a lot of need for something like this in the town”. Three years on, South Gloucestershire Council is now justifying the proposed cuts by claiming that “services do not always reach the people who need them most”.
A consultation document published by the Council points out that South Gloucestershire’s children’s centres reached only 9% of lone parents with children aged 0-4 last year.
Services currently provided at the Bradley Stoke Sure Start Centre include ‘stay and play’ sessions, a post natal group, baby social time, information and advice sessions and a childminder group. Other organisations that meet at the centre include a breastfeeding group, a birth preference class and a monthly Saturday toddler group.
The Council is inviting residents to have their say on its proposals for the services it provides for children, young people and families. The public consultation runs until Friday 25th May 2012.
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