Following the consultation period, Devon County Council considered all feedback and responses and have produced a final report on the future delivery of Children’s Centre Services and agreed the following principles.
Both were approved by Cabinet Member on Tuesday 1st July 2014.
1. Spend the money we have on services for young children and families, rather than on so many buildings.
The vast majority of responses agreed that the children’s centre budget should be focused on the delivery of children’s centre services in local areas rather than be spent on buildings which are under used or cost significant amounts of money to run. In line with Devon County Council’s Estates Strategy, the local authority will continually look for ways to make efficient use of buildings.
2. Change the Children’s Centre areas. Moving from areas based around school learning communities to areas based on district / city council areas.
A number of consultation responses were not in favour of this principle, however where this was discussed at stakeholder and parent events, there was general approval of the approach. On reflection, the feedback from the consultation questionnaire indicated a lack of clarity, as nearly a third of people stated that they didn’t know or that it didn’t affect them. In light of the responses a number of alternatives were considered.
Devon County Council will look to re-commission the children’s centre services based on the district/city council boundaries, in order to give greater flexibility for providers to move resources across a larger geographical area to respond to changing need and to reduce costs to the local authority and the providers. This will mean the local authority will change the way it contracts, but does not mean that there will only be one children’s centre building for each of the eight areas.
The children’s centre services in 5 out of the 8 district/city council areas are already provided by one responsible body for the current arrangements. Reducing the number of individual contracts within these areas will mean that the new providers will. Widening the children’s centre areas will also enable more effective partnership working with other service providers, including Public Health Nursing and Midwifery.
3. Change the number of Children’s Centre buildings we have. Keep Children’s Centre buildings in the most deprived areas, where there is the greatest need and also linked sites to make sure families can access services across Devon
Devon County Council will look to keep main children’s centre buildings in the most deprived areas, however in light of consultation responses, the local authority will also take into consideration;
If buildings are transferred for use by other Early Childhood Services, the childrens centre services will be delivered at another local venue in the area, however where possible Devon County Council will try to ensure partnership working with the new provider and some services may continue to be delivered from a space within the building.
The new contract will ensure that providers take into account the need to be accessible to families across the new geographical area.
4. Transfer some buildings for use by other Early Childhood services like pre-schools or health services.
The transfer of surplus children’s centre buildings will be undertaken where the opportunity exists. These buildings will be transferred for use by other Early Childhood Services, for example to accommodate vulnerable 2 year olds.
5. Increase the number of Children’s Centre Services provided from other places in the community. This might include other Devon County Council buildings, other community buildings or services provided directly in family homes.
The consultation responses made it clear that a large proportion of outreach support already happens in many areas, using community buildings, church halls etc. Devon County Council and the children’s centre providers will continue to look for opportunity to deliver outreach services across the County, particularly in rural areas.
6. Provide a flexible service which meets the needs of families in the local area. To achieve this we would look at: the centre opening times, what services are being offered to everyone and who provides those services.
Having one budget available for one larger geographical area will ensure that children’s centre services are able to respond to the needs of the local community and changes in need.
Childrens centres will continue to provide outreach support in communities in order to be accessible to families, particularly in rural areas.
7. Look at who else could use Children’s Centres to deliver their services to the local community.
Many children’s centres already support local community groups to provide universal services to young children and their families. The childrens centres will look to support these community groups to enable them to be sustainable, as well as share resources and expertise.