I have been involved in the campaign against cuts to our children’s centres and early help hubs in Hampshire, partly through my role as the Chair of the New Forest East Children’s Centre Partnership Board, and as a member of the New Forest Early Help Hub as a local children’s and youth worker.
How can you join the campaign?
Most importantly please add your views to the Consultation that Hampshire County Council are running. If you’re not sure how best to respond, read the New Forest East Cluster Children’s Centre Partnership Board’s advice for completing the Consultation Questionnaire.
Please also sign the petition to save the Hampshire Children’s Centres.
Hampshire County Council is asking for the views of service users, other stakeholders and members of the public, on a proposed new Family Support Service for families with children aged 0–19 years (or up to age 25 for young adults with learning difficulties and/or disabilities).
The theory of a 0-19 united service is a positive move, and one that has been developing over the last few years through the way professionals have been working closer together.
Worryingly though the proposal includes the closing of 43 Children’s Centres, and reducing the current staffing levels (currently 300 employees) for the Children’s Centres and the Early Help Hub by 60%.
The context is clearly driven by economic challenges: the County Council must meet a funding shortfall of £98 million by April 2017, and of this, the Council have decided that £21.5 million must be met from the Children’s Services budget. These proposals for changes to Children’s Centres and Early Help Hubs total £8.5 million of savings.
What are Children’s Centres & Early Help Hubs?
Introduced 17 years ago by the Labour government as Sure Start, children’s centres are designed to help parents in the community, providing a central hub for activities for under 5s, early education, health and family support. They have faced heavy cuts as a result of dwindling council budgets and hundreds have closed over the past five years, either by shutting down entirely or through mergers.
The Early Help Hub is a more recent innovation that came as a result of The Munro Review of Child Protection which argued a moral argument, a timing argument (now or never) to put right the problems in early years support; and an economic argument that early help hub was cost effective.