Services cut at Newham children’s centres

Mums and babies at the childrens centre

Mums and babies at the childrens centre - Credit: Archant

Services at a number of children’s centres in the borough are to be axed from next year following severe cuts in government funding.

Following a consultation, councillors agreed to reduce 19 registered children’s centres to just eight, under the newly introduced “Best Start in Life” initiative, during a council cabinet meeting on Thursday.

The new scheme will see a number of centres “deregistered” and parents will now have to access one of eight neighbourhood hubs that will be responsible for organising and leading delivery of childcare activities in each area.

However, deregistered centres will still be able to hold activities but they will no longer be subject to an Ofsted inspection.

Cllr Quintin Peppiatt, cabinet member for children and young people services, said the new scheme will allow the council to “place greater emphasis” on services provided.

But parents have raised concerns regarding a decrease in capacity for activities and restrictions in access to centres across the borough.

Akosua Oppong, 37, regularly uses Abbey Lane Children’s Centre in Stratford but will now need to access the registered centre for that area, Rebecca Cheetham.

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She said: “I understand that changes have to be made in the borough and I appreciate the council need to make savings but does it really need to be at the cost of our young children?

“Many of the parents attend Abbey Lane because it is easily accessible and some of them may be restricted to attend registered facilities due to transportation.

“Another concern is education, young children learn through play, and certain activities will be over-subscribed because there will be more families but services will be less.”

Currently, registered children’s centres in Newham run approximately 9,800 sessions annually. This will be reduced to approximately 7,200 sessions under the new scheme, as the overall budget will reduce from £7.4million to £4.25million.

Cllr Peppiatt said: “Like councils up and down the country, we are having to change the way we do things to deal with ongoing financial pressures and ensure the services that we do provide are good, offer value for money and are sustainable.

“Taking this approach means we can continue to deliver a high quality service across the whole borough. We have always been committed to maintaining our children’s centres and this allows us to place greater emphasis on the services we provide rather than the buildings that are used.”

The new scheme will be made up of 15 hours of free eligible childcare, with this increasing to 30 hours by 2017, regular stay and play activities, parenting workshops and employment sessions.

Councillors also agreed to hold a 12-month review into the new scheme, which is due to be rolled out from 2016.