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May 20 2011

Next steps for Children’s Centres

Families are being urged to tell Harrow Council what they want from their local children’s centre, as it explores ways to protect the services they provide from government spending cuts.

Harrow Council runs 13 children’s centres across the borough and is due to open a further three in the coming months, but the way they are funded has changed. The money from government used to be ring-fenced, but now local authorities have to allocate funding from a much smaller pot.

In order to ensure the valuable services provided by children’s centres can continue and to make sure users get the very best value for money, the Council is asking residents to help it look closely at how the centres are run.

Portfolio Holder for Children’s Services at Harrow Council, Cllr Mitzi Green, said: “Ever since our first children’s centre opened in 2007 at Whitefriars School , the centres have been at the heart of the communities they serve.

“More than 14,500 families use them every year for a huge range of services, from health and counselling services to parenting classes and employment advice, so we know how valued they are by our residents.

“Unfortunately the way children’s centres across the country are funded has changed; the government has axed the specific grant, and there will be less money available than before. Across the country local authorities are closing centres. We are committed to doing all we can to keep them open, but we cannot carry on as we are, so we’re turning to the families and organisations that use the centres for help.

“We want to hear residents’ thoughts and ideas. We want to know what services they most value, when and how they want to use their centre and whether they have any ideas about how we can run the centres more efficiently.

“We are keen to keep all the centres open; we have nothing to gain from closing and selling them, as any money we make has to go straight back to the government.

“I’d urge anyone who uses a children’s centre or might use one in the future to get involved and have their say, so that we can make sure any decisions we make reflect what residents want.”

Anna Popka, of Pinner, is one of the users keen to have her say. She visits her local centres with her children Kacper, 3, and Gabriella, 1. She said:

“I use the Pinner and Pinner Wood children’s centres for a lot of different services, from parenting groups and the toy library to cooking classes and play sessions.

“One of the centres’ outreach workers visits me at home to give me knowledge and support on my childrens’ development, toilet learning, behaviour, how to develop walking skills and excellent play ideas.

“I really value the centres and it is a luxury that I can go to the centre and ask for support but I understand things have to change. I will be taking part in the consultation to make sure my views about the services I value most are heard.”

Residents can have their say by completing a consultation form, available in children’s centres, libraries and on the Council’s website from May 20th.

Source: Harrow Council

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