Future of Lambeth's children's centres hangs in the balance as council aims to save £1.4m
Friday, January 4, 2019
Continuing cuts and funding changes from central Government force Lambeth to consult on cuts to its children’s centre services in the borough.
Lambeth council has launched a consultation into the future of its children’s services, which proposes cutting its current 23 children’s centres down to 11 core full-time centres and seven ‘link’ centres.
This is part of an over-arching strategy to save more than £43m over the next four years in order to protect its range of vital services in the borough.
The council says its budget has been more than halved since 2010 and changes to the Dedicated Schools Grant meant that it has £1.4m less a year to spend on children’s centres.
Councillor Jennifer Braithwaite, deputy leader of the Council (Children and Young People) said: ‘To date we’ve done all we can to protect our 23 children’s centres, one of the highest of any London borough, despite eight years of government cuts. But these have put us in an impossible situation and we are forced to make some changes.
‘Despite the scale of the challenge our proposal is to keep 18 centres open. Our proposals ensure that every part of the borough has a network of excellent local centres that can provide support to families.’
Under the plans, Coin Street, Heathbrook, Lark Hall, Weir Link and Sunnyhill children’s centres would no longer receive funding to offer children’s centre activities, which Lambeth says would save £124,745 a year.
Up to £95,517 of that is staff costs – although the outstanding graded Coin Street Nursery and Community Centre contributes around £98,000 of its own cash to helping more than 700 families each year, funded from renting properties owned by social enterprise Coin Street Community Builders (CSCB), of which it is a part.
Unlike the borough’s other children’s centres, Coin Street offers more than school-led provision, working with families with babies from three months, through to pre-teens, teens and young adults, with activities at weekends and during school holidays.
It also runs Dads and Male carers provision, an under-20s antenatal group and Saturday LGBT Group, which attract parents and families from Brixton, Stockwell and Streatham.
Since 2010/11 Lambeth funding to CSCB has reduced by more than 60 per cent but it has filled the shortfall with its own funds. Coin Street also receives funding from Southwark council and there are no plans currently to withdraw this.
If the proposals go through, families and children currently using the Coin Street family and children’s centre provision will have a 25-minute walk to the nearest children’s centre in Kennington or Oval.
The proposals outline that there will be 11 core centres offering a full programme of activities every morning and afternoon throughout the week. Services available will include health visiting, stay and play, creches, parenting support and adult learning activities such as English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) classes.
Seven link centres will be open every morning or afternoon and offer a range of children’s centre activities, including stay and play sessions and support for children and families.
The 18 centres will be grouped into six cluster areas and in each cluster area there will be one lead provider responsible for delivering the services across children’s centres. The council says it is currently working with schools and communities to ensure that the five remaining centres remain open, with as many services as possible continuing to operate from them.