Plans to change running of Northamptonshire children’s centres

Children have fun in The Studio at Pen Green Children's Centre, Corby
Children have fun in The Studio at Pen Green Children's Centre, Corby

Changes planned for the provision of support services for children and families could see the county’s children centres developed as early help specialists, with libraries planning a greater role.

Northamptonshire County Council has been changing the way it supports families by putting more emphasis on early help and prevention services with the aim of assisting families as their problems arise.

The authority said the aim of the proposals is to ensure family difficulties are addressed quickly so they don’t escalate to the point where specialist services such as social care, the criminal justice system or acute health services are needed.

The plan, which would mean new contracts for children’s centres being commissioned and the LibraryPlus service enhancing its services for under-fives, will be discussed on Tuesday, October 8, at the county council’s cabinet meeting.

Cllr Catherine Boardman, cabinet member for children and education, said: “We are rebuilding and remodelling the support we give to children and families in Northamptonshire.

“Although this work was started before this year’s inspection of services for child protection, the inadequate Ofsted report means there’s an added imperative to get this right.

“We need to ensure we’re making children safer by getting the right help to the right families at the right time.

“Our libraries already do a great deal of work that impacts positively on children and young people, including homework clubs, rhymetime sessions, and reading initiatives.

“They also provide advice and information for job seekers, small company start-ups, and social enterprises.

“The proposals would see them build on those excellent services to further support children and families in their own communities.

“Meanwhile, our children’s centres would then be able to really focus on the early help and prevention services that will make all the difference to families experiencing the onset of challenges or problems.”

Under the plan the LibraryPlus service would expand services for under-fives and families to incorporate information and advice, registration services, activities for children and recruitment of volunteers for children’s centre services.

The county council has already conducted a wide-ranging consultation on the plans.

In Corby, the town’s four children’s centres are also carrying out a consultation process, which will include speaking to 1,000 parents and carers.

Have a Voice Make a Choice has been launched by Corby Children’s Centre Consortium made up of Pen Green, Exeter, Kingswood and Woodnewton children’s centres.

Pen Green Children’s Centre deputy head Donna Gallagher said: “The county council is looking at where the children’s centres fit and who will be best placed to run these centres.

“We feel that parents and carers’ views about local services should be at the heart of any proposal that is put forward to the county council.”

There are 50 children’s centres in the county delivering education and childcare, family support, child and family health services and support for training and employment.

The council’s cabinet has previously agreed that children’s centre services will be re-commissioned on the basis there will be commissioning of provision across the whole county.

Bidders will be required to demonstrate how they will make effective use of the assets of the county council and partner agencies, such as buildings.