Abingdon Town Council discusses Children’s Centres

January 4, 2016

Town Council discusses Childrens Centres
Town Councillors were invited to a planning committee meeting to make a collective response to the County Council’s proposal to close Children’s Centres in Oxfordshire. There were also members of the public who came to speak.
Town Council discusses Childrens Centres
Oxfordshire County Council is having funding cut by central government, and so is proposing to close all the children’s centres and set up a more reduced centralised service for only the most vulnerable, and has given 3 options:
1. Eight Family and Resource Centres for the most vulnerable. With some universal services provided by other agencies
2. Eight Family and Resource Centres with limited universal services provided by the county
3. Six centres, with grants to help for other groups to set up universal services.

At the meeting, members of the public had argued that the current universal services were essential, and cutting them was a false economy – intervention cost far more later on. The children’s centres have built trust with families over the years, and that would be lost. Children’s Centres also offer a professional service that cannot be matched by the voluntary sector.

Abingdon has 2 children’s centres: one in a dedicated building in ground next to Caldecott School – built about fifteen years ago when the family centre and community centre at Saxton Road were demolished for housing. The other is in the grounds of Dunmore School.

Councillors discussed the matter. None of them wanted to loose the 2 Abingdon children’s centres because of all the work they do. Some councillors opposed the closures. Others thought the voluntary sector could fill the gap. Others wanted to press the County Council to look for additional funding to try to keep more centres open, including those in Abingdon, and particularly the one in South Abingdon. It was left to the Chair, Deputy Chair, and Town Clerk to bring the different ideas together, and send a reply to the consultation.

If you want to send your own response you have until 10th January

Filed under: politics

11 Comments Leave a Comment

  • 1. Captainkaos2  |  January 5, 2016 at 8:51 am

    Please forgive my ignorance but what do these centres actually do? And the term “vulnerable children” in what way are they vulnerable ? and once recognised how do they approach and deal with that child ?

  • 2. Daniel  |  January 5, 2016 at 9:55 am

    …they do an awful lot. And are worth far more than a 6 figure redundancy/pay off that some rate payer money goes on.

    I can get you some specific examples, if you want captain? But, in essence, for a lot of people the Outlook isn’t particularly rosie (despite the flowers looking great in Abingdon). Kids needing help before they are even born, families needing help and support ongoing because of adduction, poverty, ignorance, abuse…I believe these are just some if the issues. It isn’t ‘just’ children….it is families too. And you don’t have to have it as bad as all that in order to need help…hard working yet single dads, or single mums may need help and support too….I’m do not fit in to any of the categories above but I have found them a useful resource too – as a father of two.

    If you need them, they are invaluable. If you don’t need them, they are a luxury.

    Spending time (and yes, money) on a child to get them on “the straight and narrow” is a far better use of finances than letting them progress through the care, judicial, prison system later. I think, in summary, that us the principle.

    But, agreed it is ‘better’ for the plebs to be arguing the toss about all this, rather than have our attention drawn to real issues about cuts to spending, cuts from government, and the reasons for our financial mess in the first place.

    Having said that….I do feel that the children’s centres suffer from a failure to engage with the communities in which they sit – they do not advertise or promote themselves well.

    I believe the Wassail is on later this month at the children’s centre in South Abingdon. Whilst the Wassail is on the centre is also open and in use – a good opportunity to come along and speak to the centre and find out what they do, if anyone wants to inform themselves with facts, before forming their opinion…(Not about apples of course…they do more than that, promise)!

    Some will certainly argue that we shouldn’t be spending our dwindling resources on societies detritus. Some will argue we should go to war. Some will argue we entertain Saudi dignatories. Some will look away. Some won’t.

  • 3. Hester  |  January 5, 2016 at 10:27 am

    Children’s Centres provide a range of services, not exactly the same at all centres. A lot of the services are delivered by specialists from other agencies – speech therapy, child development, breastfeeding support, Citizens Advice, benefits information etc. They also provide appropriate venues (including play equipment) for “supervised contact” visits for separated parents. They have an effective two-way relationship with social services, health visitors etc: where possible they provide support to families to enable them to resolve issues without formal (and costly) social services intervention, but where SS are involved Children’s
    Centres can help parents meet the goals they are set.
    As was mentioned last night, the Children’s Centres are the “glue which holds all of this together”: because they also
    provide “universal” or “drop-in” services they offer a comfortable, non-stigmatised environment where people don’t have to say outright that they have a problem, but
    can relax and develop trust in the workers (whether paid or
    volunteers) then open up when they are ready. Also because the workers are trained they can spot signs of problems and gently help the individual/family to address them. Because the centres are welcoming and usually located close to areas of deprivation they are easily accessible to families who would find it difficult to attend appointments at more daunting premises further afield.

    Finally, they can help parents access training of various kinds to help them with, for example, managing their finances, getting back to work, literacy/numeracy, parenting skills etc etc

    I could go on, but hope that will do for starters!

  • 4. Captainkaos2  |  January 5, 2016 at 10:52 am

    Thanks for that Daniel & Hester, I’m sure I’m not the only one who had no idea just how crucial these centres are? So what the hell is OCC thinking about !

  • 5. daniel  |  January 5, 2016 at 12:55 pm

    …a good friend of mine works for the Oxfordshire Children’s Centres, I asked what his answer (in summary) would be to the question “what do these centres actually do”?

    His summarised response was….

    …Children’s centres are services aimed at families with children under five. The fact that young children are affected by their surroundings is well known. Child development specialists have produced decades of research showing that the environment of a child’s earliest years can have effects that last a lifetime. Families surrounded by love and care might need the children centre a bit less than those families affected by issues such as: domestic abuse, parenting, behaviour issues, living in deprived areas, housing, English as second language, post-natal depression, breastfeeding, health issues, just to name a few. Children centres work to identify those issues and support parents in performing in the best way possible their role during these crucial early years….

    I hope this is useful and provides further enlightenment! See you at the wassail!

  • 6. Janet  |  January 5, 2016 at 2:39 pm

    When I first moved to Abingdon the Council had a pre-school nursery and Teasdale School for pupils with learning difficulties in South Aibingdon. Both these facilities were closed and the land sold for development. The Council must have made a considerable sum from the sale. South Abingdon was once deemed a deprived area and the level of child literacy very low. The childrens’ centers were built to support parents from deprived families.

  • 7. Neil Fawcett  |  January 5, 2016 at 3:14 pm

    Janet – the sale of the Teasdale site (which had become part of Kingfisher School) and the Caldecott Infants site paid for the extension of the Caldecott Juniors building to accommodate the infants and expand the early years provision, for improvements at the Radley Road Kingfisher site to accommodate the extra pupils there and for the building of the Children’s Centre (then called the Family Centre). I was involved in negotiating the deal and getting the Children’s Centre set up at that time.

    Hester and Daniel have described the services provided well, and in the time the centre has been there it has had a very positive impact on many families and children in South Abingdon.

    It would be a real backwards step to close it. As Daniel says there is a huge amount of evidence that supporting children develop in their early years, and in supporting a more stable family life, many times the cost is saved later.

    At the County Council I have argued that they should at least allow a transition period to see if alternative sources of funding can be found and/or other providers found who can make use of the buildings and/or that there should be active support for volunteers to take over, as has happened with the libraries.

  • 8. Janet  |  January 6, 2016 at 10:24 am

    Neil, good luck with the effort to keep the centres open. I am also concerned by the cuts to services for the homeless.

  • 9. davidofLuton  |  January 6, 2016 at 9:33 pm

    this is what is happening all over the country – and in some areas it is meaning a lot worse that the closure of Family Centres.

    Back last May the Government was voted in after saying it would make billions in cuts, but resolutely refusing to say where these cuts would fall. Millions of people sort of assumed that the cuts would be met by “cutting waste” or penalising “the feckless” or “the scroungers”. ie, millions thought that someone else would pay, not them.

    Moral of the tale? When you sign a blank cheque or do not insist on seeing the small print on a contract, you are going to get shafted eventually.

  • 10. Neil Fawcett  |  January 9, 2016 at 6:08 pm

    You are quite right David, and this is just the consultation on Children’s Centres which they have to do a specific consultation about.

    They are also looking at axing all bus subsidies, closing nearly all the elderly day care centres, further cuts to highways maintenance and cutting many related services such as gully clearance. Basically pretty much everything other than what they are statutorily obliged to do.

  • 11. Daniel  |  January 9, 2016 at 8:36 pm

    …is it about time our (and others’) MPs started getting involved? In general I mean?

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