Management to be 'streamlined' at 41 children's centres across Bradford district

Barkerend Children's Centre, Barkerend Road

Barkerend Children's Centre, Barkerend Road

First published in News

New proposals to "streamline" management of the 41 children's centres across the Bradford district have been revealed, with the plans now open to public consultation.

In February, Bradford Council announced it was to rethink controversial cuts that would have seen many centres become outreach bases run entirely by volunteers.

The outreach sites are set to remain under the revised plans, but they will be grouped together in 'clusters', designed in response to feedback received during the previous public consultation.

Each cluster - a group of local children's centres working together - will have a dedicated staff team offering services from a range of venues, with no single existing centre taking the lead.

There will be one or more designated 'official' centres within the cluster, with others receiving more of their services through local community organisations.

The Council states the move will bring about a more effective way of managing children's centres across the district, reducing administration and management requirements, and the number of Ofsted assessments.

The authority has said it needs to cut the cost of the centres by £2.4million in 2015/16, with the re-structure designed to provide targeted support such as midwifery, health visits and pre-school parenting support for children and families who "need it most."

Councillor Ralph Berry, executive member for children's services, said: "Changing a service that is so important to people is never easy, which is why we have carried out such a detailed consultation.

"This has been a terrible round of reductions in funding, and we need to introduce a slimmed-down, more effective management structure.

"There are currently 41 sets of management structures, and we have to find a way of streamlining to protect front-end services.

"We are taking a considered approach to ensure every community can access the centres as and when they need them.

"Volunteers already play a big part in a number of centres, but under the new structure, each one will retain a level of professional service delivery.

"It will have an impact on staffing, but we can't say at what level at this stage."

The Council's Conservative spokesman for children's services, Councillor Debbie Davies, it was vital the to establish what users of the centres made of the restructure.

"If the new proposal can cut out levels of bureaucracy, then I would support it in principle," she said.

"I would hope the new plans are more equitable than those proposed last year though, which were very disproportionate and would have had a far greater impact on the outer areas of Bradford."

Leader of the Liberal Democrats on Bradford Council, Councillor Jeanette Sunderland, said she did not accept the funding cuts had been forced on the council, citing money spent elsewhere on projects such as the refurbishment of the Town Hall.

"I would support a slimmed-down management structure, but not any cuts to actual service provision," she said.

"There has been an increase in child protection referrals across Bradford, and children's centres play an important part in the first line of defence against those.

"Child protection services actually need an increased amount of funding to ensure they are sustainable."

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