Changes to centres ‘do not hit town families’

Playschool
Playschool
  • Children’s centres were taken over by Barnardo’s Services Ltd in September
  • The service is being run on a reduced budget after 40 percent cuts
  • Kenilworth’s two centres are now being run as one service under joint management

Children’s centre changes including charges, reduced staff and a drop in activities have not negatively impacted on families, assure bosses.

Barnardo’s Services Ltd took over the running of centres in Warwickshire in September after the service was hit by 40 per cent budget cuts.

Demand is as great as ever for popular sessions and staffing numbers is certainly the biggest difficulty

Jean Lockley

Changes to the previous Surestart service hit the Bertie Road and St John’s centres which were forced to run a joint service.

The town facilities - once run independently with 12 members of staff -are now headed by one manager and up to half the staff with most sessions held on one site.

Jean Lockley, chair of the centre’s advisory board, said that despite challenging times, they are working hard to make sure families can still access the services they need as demand remains high.

Explaining how things have worked out in the first six months, she said: “The budget cuts have really impacted but staff have been able to manage through that.

“We are still running a full time service, just differently.

“Demand is as great as ever for popular sessions and staffing numbers is certainly the biggest difficulty.

“But we cannot be in two places at once and so services are manly run from one site which does lead to a reduction in what we can offer.”

Barnardos’s is the day-to-day provider and employs staff at the centres, but budgets are still controlled by the county council.

Some charges for sessions have also been introduced since the cuts were introduced but she described them as “minimum”.

Jean continued: “The ethos of the centre is about families and there are measures to help those who are not in a position to meet costs.

“There has been some reduction in services, not providing as much as we would like to. But the scope for growth is there.

“Even with the adverse situation and the impact of changes, staff have been carrying on and still providing a really good service for families. Some have said they have not noticed a difference despite these changes and that is all down to the hard work being done in the centres.

“It is a good picture but one that could have been much better had we not had to manage these budget cuts.”

The charity is now looking at options such as bringing in volunteers to help increase the activities and call for fundraising and donations.

Activities have resumed at the Bertie Road garden space which they are “very grateful” for, and Kenilworth nursery is able to run family services independently to fill a gap left by the change-over.

A joint bid by the two Kenilworth centres was rejected in favour of the Barnardo’s service last year.

The independent advisory board is made up of council representatives, parents and volunteers to oversee work.

The charity will continue to run the centre for the next three years.