Child centres set for change

Consultation underway on future of Fenland's children's centres.
Consultation underway on future of Fenland's children's centres.

Consultation is underway on the future of children’s centres across Cambridgeshire with proposals that will see provision change in Fenland including the loss of two centres.

Cambridgeshire County Council launched the consultation last month and people have until September 22 to comment on what is being proposed.

A report on the changes explains the council is looking to “make the most effective use of our available resources” and adds that a round £1million could be saved by delivering services differently.

Wendi Ogle-Welbourne, executive director for people and communities, says in the report’s foreword: “We know there is ‘no one size fits all’ solution for Cambridgeshire. The consultation has been divided into districts, so we can gather information and plan the future of our services at a local level.”

At present Fenland has six children’s centres: Oasis Centre, Wisbech, Wisbech South, Murrow, March, Chatteris and Whittlesey.

The report says contracts for the externally delivered children’s centres end in April 2018 and the council is looking at how money can be spent to have the biggest positive impact on young children’s development before re-tendering contracts. It suggests some centres will no longer be needed including Murrow - where the report points out people are most likely to access services at the Wisbech centres.

The Murrow centre would be re-designated to meet other needs for families in the area including childcare provision.

Outreach provision for the district would be based at libraries, health centres, community venues and schools across the district.

The report points out that families in Fenland find it hard to access childcare in some communities, especially around March. This is likely to get worse from September when 30 hours of free childcare is introduced by the government.

It also says Fenland has a greater proportion of families needing additional support compared to other districts.

The report adds Fenland’s large number of isolated villages with poor or no public transport means outreach services will need to be developed. The proposals will see the six centres cut to three across four sites - two in Wisbech, one in March and one in Chatteris.

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