Calling for Council to rethink Children’s Centre proposals
Birmingham Northfield MP Richard Burden has called for Birmingham City Council to rethink proposals published today following its Early Years Health and Wellbeing Review. Under the review Birmingham City Council proposes to contract out children’s centre services to a consortium of the Community Healthcare NHS Trust, Barnardo’s Spurgeons children’s charity and St Paul’s Community Trust. The City Council say the plan will better integrate health visiting and children’s centre services, but it will see a number of children’s centres de-registered by the Council.
Mr Burden said today:
Government cuts are hitting children’s centres and other Sure Start initiatives all over the country. A third of all the UK’s sure start centres have been lost since 2010. Birmingham has lost £17m from its own early years budget. Nobody should be under any illusions that the responsibility of cuts to children’s centres in Birmingham lies anywhere other than, at root, with the Conservative Government. That is why, together with other Labour MPs and the City Council, I will continue to demand that ministers change course.
But that does not let the City Council off the hook with what they are proposing here. In my constituency and several others they still appear not to have addressed most of the consultation responses they received over the summer from parents and from people who actually deliver early years services.
Looking at the position in my constituency, I am pleased the Council have told me that they will retain Wychall and Frankley Plus Children’s Centres as hubs for early years services, and that they have modified an earlier proposal to close Merrishaw Children’s Centre. Elsewhere in the constituency, however, it is far from clear what kind of support will be there for families. In an area of high deprivation like Kings Norton’s three estates, that is a real concern. In Weoley Castle, meanwhile, the City Council is planning to de-commission the well-established and highly regarded Children’s Centre only to then suggest running slimmed down services from two venues next door.
This remains a top-down reorganisation with far too many questions unanswered and precious little information about how its authors actually expect it to work.
Mr Burden has written to Council Leader Ian Ward urging that the City’s Cabinet withhold approval of the new arrangements unless and until the serious questions that have been raised are answered.