Friday, April 4, 2014
Children’s centres across Devon could surrender universal care in favour of focusing on those in greatest need as the contracts come under review.
The county council is looking to cut £110million from its budget over the next three years, and cabinet will discuss the options on Wednesday,
Officers recommend focusing on the most vulnerable families, which they should enable their earlier identification, and may reduce the number of children going into care.
But they warn that universal access is often a ‘gateway’ for those vulnerable families to receive targeted help and cutting it could limit access.
The authority currently spends £8.6million commissioning the service but is looking at how to make savings as the contracts come up to tender.
It currently has 43 individual contracts, but a reduced budget would make some of the smaller centres unviable.
Officers recommend reducing the number to around eight contracts, based on district council boundaries, which builds on the current position.
The authority is also looking at co-location of children’s centres with other DCC-provided services, but maintaining its buildings where there is a high density of need – although this was undefined in the preliminary report.
The plans are set to go to consultation with key stakeholders before the contracts go to tender later this year.
Children’s centres are the council’s key delivery mechanism for meeting its statutory duties with regards to child development, school readiness, parenting aspirations and family health.