Centres to go under shake up of services for children

under threat: Batley East Childrens Centre.
under threat: Batley East Childrens Centre.
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Just four children’s centres will remain across the district after members of Kirklees Council’s cabinet gave the go-ahead to a shake-up of children and youth services.

The cost-cutting move will see support for children, young people and their families delivered from a handful of council-owned buildings, with additional services run from community venues.

It aims to target help to those most vulnerable whilst making savings by closing many of the existing 25 children’s centres as well as youth centre buildings.

Under the new model, approved at a meeting on Tuesday, the district will be divided into four areas - Batley and Spen, Dewsbury and Mirfield, Kirklees Rural and Huddersfield. Each area will have a central hub, which will become the main point of access for people wanting support, as well as a designated children’s centre.

These include hubs at Batley and Dewsbury town halls as well as the Birstall and Birkenshaw Children’s Centre and the Dewsbury Moor Children’s Centre.

All other current children’s and youth centres are considered ‘surplus’ in the new mode and could close.

Coun Erin Hill, cabinet member for family support and child protection, said: “Our priority is to make sure people who most need our help are able to receive it. Our budget is incredibly challenging. That won’t be news to anyone and we’re not unique.

“Nationally, thousands of children’s centres have had their budgets slashed and hundreds have closed altogether. But we can’t wring our hands – we have to come up with a new way of doing things.”

The ‘surplus’ buildings could be used to support additional school places or be handed over to partners and community groups. Some will continue to be used in the short-term to support the transition to the new model.

From April 2018, as well as the hubs and designated children’s centres, council services will also be delivered from community buildings for example in health centres and libraries or through former children’s centres via agreements with groups who have taken over the sites.

Coun Hill said: “We are committed to supporting the most vulnerable people in Kirklees. We know that in some areas, our current provision isn’t working.

“We need to reach more people, and we need to situate our services where people can easily access them.”