YOUR feedback could influence the future of children’s centres in Somerset.
Somerset County Council is inviting the public to have its say on how children’s centre services could operate in the future. A public consultation is running until October 28 asking for people to help decide how and where services will operate in future. The county has 41 children’s centres and a range of children’s services operating separate sites. Children’s centre services include family support on issues such as feeding, sleeping, behaviour management and parenting classes.
Views are being sought through focus groups and a telephone survey of a sample of families with children aged under five, some who use children’s centres and others who don’t as well as through the public consultation. In April and May around 8,000 surveys were sent to children’s centres users, non-service users and early years providers.
Cabinet member for Children and Families, councillor Frances Nicholson, said: “No decisions have been made. We want as many people as possible to give us their feedback so we can understand their thoughts and priorities.
“We need to make sure children’s centre services are organised and operating in a way that gets the support to the people who need it most in the most effective and efficient way.”
But Andy Lewis, branch secretary of West Somerset Labour Party has accused the council of drawing up plans to shut drawn up plans to shut 27 of the 41 county-supported children’s centres and said not enough publicity had been given to the consultation.
The views from the consultation will help county council’s cabinet members make a decision in November about potential changes to children’s centre services, which could include more reliance on the voluntary sector and the merging of some centres.
Ofsted’s inspection of the council’s Arrangements for the Protection of Children at the end of June graded them as inadequate and highlighted serious shortcomings. Cuts to children’s centres could lead to further criticism of the council’s children’s services.
Anyone wishing to take part in the consultation can access an online survey by visiting http://www.somersetconsults.org.uk/consult.ti and clicking on the link for Somerset’s Children’s Centre Services. Anyone requiring a hard copy of the survey or requesting information in alternative formats, including alternative languages, can email MHellier@somerset.gov.uk or telephone 01823 368280.