Seeking a takeover for Flanderwell Silver Birch Children’s Centre as government cuts bite

Before the last General Election, the Conservatives had promised to cut £200 million from the national budget for Sure Start children’s centres – a worrying policy that we referred to in our leaflets back in 2010 (pictured).

The reality since then has been far worse. The grant that funded children’s centres was scrapped, with some of the remaining funding being dedicated by the government to other servicesFlashback to 2010. That’s effectively meant a cut of £1.4 billion from children’s centres. Already nearly 600 centres across the country have had to close as a result.

In Rotherham, the government has cut more than £4 million from the funding for children’s centres. Because we know how important our childrens centres can be, over the last three years Labour councillors have pressed for them to remain open, with savings coming from reduced staffing, fewer services, and budgets supported from other areas of spending.

However, as the overall budget savings forced on Rotherham Council head towards £100 million, it will no longer be possible for the Children and Young People’s Services Directorate to continue to both fund all of Rotherham’s childrens centres and also maintain spending on protecting the most vulnerable young people and victims of abuse. In order to continue to fund that vital child protection work at its current level, sadly there have to be cuts made elsewhere.

In order to save £2.2 million and make the remaining budget stretch as far as possible, the council has come up with a plan that keeps open the centres they believe provide for the largest number of children in the most disadvantaged areas, with outreach work proposed for other parts of the borough. Sadly, this plan would mean that the Silver Birch centre in our ward would close. The smaller Marcliff centre at Listerdale School (which borders our ward) is also earmarked for possible closure.

Our MP, John Healey, has written to the Prime Minister, holding him directly responsible for the situation facing our community.

The proposals are out for consultation at the moment, and we have secured an additional meeting at Flanderwell School (6pm, April 2nd) to give local residents the chance to meet with council staff and ourselves to find out more and share your views. If you have an interest in the children’s centre, please do come along.

You can also take part online by clicking here any time before 30th April.

The council has said that no centres will close before May 2015, so there won’t be any sudden changes at Flanderwell and this lengthy process gives us more opportunity to seek alternatives for the future of the centre.

Even if the council does decide to go ahead and close Siver Birch, it is possible that alternative organisations might be found to take over the running of the centre so that some services may be retained. We are already aware of a couple of possible options, but it is still very early in the process so over the coming weeks we will be doing all that we can to develop these. If you or your organisation may be interested in taking over the centre, or would like to find out more, please do register your interest through the consultation and get in touch with us.

Finally, we are aware of the frustration and uncertainty that these cuts are creating. We had hoped that it would be possible to avoid this, but with every year bringing more cuts and with no end in sight to the ever tougher choices in the budget, we must make the best of a very difficult situation.

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