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Medway Council plans to change children's centres and early help services

By Jade Edwards

Children's centres across the Medway Towns are at risk of closure due to budget cuts.

Changes in government funding for early years’ provision, alongside the requirement to reduce the council’s own budgets as seen bosses review early years services to find innovative ways to support Medway’s young families.

Proposals to refocus council resources to target children and families most in need have been put forward.

Father and newborn baby. Picture: Thinkstock Image Library

Medway Council’s cabinet will decide whether to launch a public consultation on the proposals, at a meeting on Tuesday, May 9.

Members will consider three options for the future of children’s centre services as well as changes to the early years services. One option has been recommended but all three options outlined in the cabinet paper will go out to consultation.

Option A plans to organise children centre staff into a single team, based centrally, which works with families across Medway.

Option B is to close all children’s centres and reinvest the funding into other services.

Option C, which is the plan officers have recommended, proposes the creation of four “super hub” centres which would help those in their areas. They include Gillingham and Twydall, Luton and Rainham, Strood, Peninsula and Rochester West and Rochester East, Chatham and Walderslade.

A water play session at Deanwood Children's Centre in Rainham.

The four areas were selected to reflect local need and demand for services.

If Option C is given the go ahead, after a public consultation, the centres would combine children’s centre services for newborns to five-year-olds with early help teams who work with families and children, aged five and above.

Each ‘super hub’ would also serve a wider area by operating as a base for outreach work – taking services to individual families.

Medway Council’s head of children’s services, Cllr Andrew Mackness, said: “This is all about looking at what we have and thinking innovatively about how we can transform the service we already offer for families and young people in Medway.

Cllr Andrew Mackness

“The welfare of children and families in Medway and helping them realise their potential remains a top priority for the council and we are committed to finding a different but effective way of continuing to provide good early years services for Medway families.

“The option being recommended for consultation would allow us to continue to deliver quality children’s services with a particular focus on those most in need.”

The consultation is planned to start on Tuesday, May 23 and will run for six weeks. View the Cabinet paper online.

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