Children’s Centre Services: putting children first and delivering value for money
As part of the transfer of the Children’s Centre Service to Nottinghamshire County Council, it has been reviewing the property portfolio to ensure it can evidence best value from its network of 38 dedicated children’s centre buildings. The council is putting children first by investing more time in reaching out to families in need, rather than waiting for them to come through the door.
The Council’s Children and Young People's Committee on Monday 10 February agreed that three buildings, which have low footfall, very high lease or high maintenance costs, or which offer a limited range of services, will no longer be dedicated Children’s Centre service buildings.
The buildings which will no longer be dedicated children’s centres are Bellamy’s Children’s Centre in Mansfield, Huthwaite Children’s Centre in Ashfield, and Beeston Central Children’s Centre in Broxtowe. The Council will retain a presence in these three areas by renting rooms in these or neighbouring community venues when they are required. Following the changes, Nottinghamshire will retain 35 dedicated children’s centres across the county.
Nottinghamshire County Council will continue to provide services to support children and families who need early support and are at risk of poor outcomes. The Council remains committed to meeting the needs of the most vulnerable children, young people and families, while making the best use of existing resources and offering support in people’s homes.
Huthwaite Children’s Centre costs £32,000 a year to run. The owners have already found alternative tenants for part of the space occupied by the Children’s Centre Service and the Council will not move out immediately and will fulfil their 12 months’ notice period. The Council will have the option to rent rooms in this building, as and when needed.
Beeston Central Children’s Centre belongs to the Council and costs £30,500 a year to run. A footfall exercise found that no parents or children accessed the property in one month. Subsequent consultation found that many parents thought the centre had already closed, and 96% of parents felt the services could be provided in community buildings instead. The Council will have the option to hire rooms in the Youth and Community centre next door when needed.
An annual footfall exercise found that there were just six children who used the Children’s Centre service at Bellamy Children’s Centre during one month. The Centre has running costs of £22,000 a year for upkeep, despite the owners not charging rent. The property is in a target area so the Council will rent space at the centre to deliver activities when needed. The council will actively support the owner Mansfield District Council, and local partners to help find sustainable solutions for the property.
The Council will continue to have a presence in all three areas, renting rooms either in the buildings or close by, as and when needed. Bellamy/Mansfield is the only one of the three identified as a target area in the Income Deprivation Affecting Children Index (IDACI) which the council uses to identify priority areas; the service will continue to be provided with increased outreach work to engage families.
Children’s Centre teams are informing local service users of the outcome of the consultation and committee decision this week.
Councillor Philip Owen, Children and Young people’s Committee Chairman said:
“We need to deliver the best possible support to people that we can, while making the best use of our resources. Our priority is to give children the best start in life, not buildings. We need to deliver the right services at the right time, in the right place, to those that need them most.
“By adopting a targeted approach, which focuses on outcomes, I’m confident that we will be in a more sustainable position for the future.
“By ceasing to use under-used buildings and those that represent poor value for money, we can save funds and help to protect vital services."