Consultation over child centre plans
5:30am Saturday 19th July 2014 in By Mike Benke, @Michael_Benke
POLITICIANS are urging residents to have their say in a consultation on the planned closure of half of the town’s children’s centres.
Earlier this week it emerged the council is considering closing many of the centres in a bid to save almost £800,000.
While those which serve the highest number of vulnerable children will remain open, seven could be closed next year.
A consultation is due to take place at the end of July to gather people’s views on the proposals.
The council needs to find £48 million of savings in the next three years, which is why the move is being put forward, but targeting children’s centres has drawn criticism from parents and politicians.
Councillor Mark Dempsey (Lab, Walcot and Park North), who is the Swindon North parliamentary candidate said: “I am deeply worried to hear that the Tories are planning to slash seven children’s centres in Swindon. These centres are vital to protecting vulnerable children and helping families give their children the best start in life.
“I hear from families across Swindon how important our children’s centres are. I fear that this decision will be deeply damaging for the life chances and lives of children and families across our town.”
The Conservatives have said they are focused on trying to make key savings. Coun Fionuala Foley (Con, Chiseldon and Lawn) said: “We have to find these savings, which means tough decisions have to be made.”
One of the mitigating arguments being given for possible closure is that the impact will not be as bad for the most vulnerable children as there are due to be an extra 17 health visitors in Swindon by next April when the plans come into force.
South Swindon MP Robert Buckland said: “There is a consultation first and I would urge everyone to take part in that.
“There needs to be a focus on making sure we are helping the most vulnerable children. That is why I am pleased there will be extra health visitors in Swindon. Outreach services are very important. For example, a mother with post-natal depression does not want to go to a children’s centre.
“This is a very tough decision and is not helped by some of the political posturing I have seen this week.”
The consultation will be focused on staff and users of the children’s centres and will run for two months from July 29.
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