A key milestone in the future of children’s centre services in Northamptonshire has been reached.
New contracts for the delivery of services supporting children and families have been awarded, meaning there will be one management team for children’s centre services in each of Corby, Kettering, Wellingborough and East Northants. There will be a total of 10 across the county.
Northamptonshire County Council has awarded seven of ten area-based contracts to two leading children’s charities – five to Action for Children and two to Spurgeons.
The county budget for the provision of services totals £10.4 million each year up to the end of March 2017.
Cllr Heather Smith, cabinet member for children’s services, said: “Unlike many local authorities we have been able to protect our children’s centre services from significant budget cuts, maintaining annual budgets of over £10million per year.
“However, we are re-organising the way our children’s centre services are delivered to ensure that we have a consistent and effective approach to protecting young children and giving them the best start in life.
“Our libraries will become the default local venue for non-specialist services such as registration and advice while the children’s centres will focus on targeted support for families in need of extra help and expertise.
“By making sure that we identify risks early and intervene sooner to give the support and help that can make all the difference in stopping families problems escalating, Children’s Centres will be supporting the work we are doing across all services to respond to last year’s Ofsted inspections.
“Our existing children’s centre providers have done some incredible work but we need to build on this to further improve the support provided to young families across the county and ensure that more families can access that support.
“In providing more targeted early help services, we expect the successful bidders to work much more locally than has been the case, with a greater emphasis on outreach work and providing services to families in their own homes and communities.”
In addition to commissioning the new contracts, the council will expand the range of services currently provided by its library service to incorporate:
* information and advice
* registration services
* activities for children
* recruitment of volunteers for children’s centres services
The new contracts begin in the summer and have been awarded to Action for Children in Kettering and Wellingborough. Spurgeons has been awarded the contracts for East Northamptonshire. The tender for Corby will be awarded in the coming months.
The council will be working with the successful providers and other relevant partners to introduce and develop the new services to ensure they meet the needs of young families in each locality. Where any significant changes to the delivery of current services are proposed, there will be further formal consultation.