County children centres to stay open

ALL 49 Children and Family Centres (CFCs) in West Sussex are to stay open, but changes in the way they are managed and a new funding formula have been unveiled.

A report on the service is to be considered by the County Council’s Children and Young People’s Services Select Committee later this month.

It asks for comments on a series of proposals before a final decision is taken by West Sussex Cabinet Member for Children and Families, Peter Evans.

He said: “As people are probably aware in some parts of the country there are proposals to close CFCs or Sure Start centres.

“I am pleased to say that in West Sussex we are not proposing to adopt this approach.

“CFCs provide an invaluable service to parents and children, and I am sure that we are all proud of the way they have developed and the strong community links they have forged.

“They will also be at the very cutting edge of our ‘Think Family’ early intervention and family support plans.”

The Select Committee report says that a new management model has been developed to deliver an ‘equitable countywide service in the most effective and cost efficient way’.

Proposals include moving to a ‘cluster management model’ based on geographical areas.

This will involve merging the management of a small number of CFCs:

Maidenbower and Pound Hill in Crawley

Storrington and Pulborough

Rural Steyning and Henfield

Rural East Grinstead and Bolney

The report also says that a new ‘fair and transparent’ funding formula for individual CFCs has been developed to help target the most vulnerable families.

There will be a detailed staff consultation before any changes are made.

The report says there will be an overall reduction in CFC posts but the County Council will try to avoid any job losses unless absolutely necessary.

Some of the savings from reduced management costs will be used to fund new front-line centre co-ordinator posts.

The County Council will also consult with each Centre Partnership Group to ensure that as many families as possible know that their centre will not be closing, although there may be some changes in the management and staffing.

Mr Evans added: “This consultation will also provide a useful opportunity to obtain the view of parents so that each centre can plan and offer services that respond to local needs and priorities.”

The Children and Young People’s Services Select Committee meets on Wednesday April 20.

Committee Chairman, Richard Burrett, said: “Children and Family Centres are an important resource and a focal point in local communities.

“I am sure that members of the committee will welcome the opportunity to examine the principles and proposals for the future management of Children and Family Centres.”