Rethink on Warwickshire children's centre closures does not go far enough, campaigners claim

Shire Hall, where Warwickshire County Council sits
Shire Hall, where Warwickshire County Council sits

Revised plans to cut children's centres in Warwickshire after pressure from parents and groups are not enough to keep a good service, campaigners have claimed.

Warwickshire County Council plans to replace 14 of the 39 children's centres in the county with 'children and family centres'.

The number was revised upward from keeping 12 centres as 'family hubs' after strong pressure from many people during consultation last summer forced the council to have a rethink.

But Vicki Behm, leader of the Save Our Children's Centres campaign, felt the new plans amounted to little more than 'tinkering at the edges'.

She said: "The proposed changes to the original proposals for Children’s Centres are not a compromise.

"They amount to little more than a tinkering at the edges with some misleading packaging: a few more centres, a delay to a third’s closure and a relabelling of ‘Hubs’ as ‘Children and Family Centres’, on the grounds that the term ‘hubs’ is confusing - which is, in fact, an attempt to confuse the issue further.

"We have already heard loud and clear from people throughout our campaign that many will not use the targeted services for various reasons: they will feel stigmatised and vulnerable, they won’t feel comfortable leaving their communities, and they will not be able to afford to travel for services."

The group has urged the council to completely reconsider its plans.

It suggests the council should use its reserves to keep all the centres open for the next two years while putting pressure on the government for extra funding.

The council's Overview and Scrutiny Committee met to discuss the changes today (Tuesday November 7), and its Cabinet will vote on the new plans at a meeting on Thursday November 9.

A spokesman for Warwickshire County Council said they would not comment on the criticism before the meeting takes place.

If the plans go ahead, centres in Lillington, Westgate, and Kingsway would become children and family centres.

The name was changed as the council felt the term ‘family hub’ was too confusing. Originally, Sydenham was going to be kept instead of Kingsway, but the council said the consultation found Kingsway’s centre was in a greater area of need.

An ‘outreach model’ has been proposed for centres due to close in Whitnash, Warwick, Kenilworth Bertie Road and Wellesbourne.

Kenilworth St John’s and Southam are also set to have outreach services, but the centres would be kept for one year in a ‘transition period’.

The council said ‘significant representations’ made from people in Kenilworth meant they had to keep one centre open for longer while it worked out how it could deliver a good service through outreach.

Originally, both St John’s and Bertie Road’s centres in Kenilworth were going to be closed. The nearest centre to the town would have been in Lillington.