KIRKLEES Council has approved controversial plans to shrink its children’s centre services amid budget cuts.
Plans to close around a third of the current 32 centres across the district were put out to consultation last year by the council, as they look to make massive savings across the board.
Council chiefs say the consultation excercise found that parents and carers agreed that services were more important than buildings.
Kirklees now says that it will look to move away from purely using council-owned buildings and will instead look to utilise other premises.
The council has not yet revealed which buildings will close.
Children’s centres offer parents and children the chance to take part in activities while also offering help and advice to parents who require it.
A number of responses during the consultation stated they enjoyed the ‘stay and play’ sessions and the ‘One Stop Shop’ service.
Coun Erin Hill (pictured above), cabinet member for family support and child protection, said they hoped to use a number of community buildings where parents were already meeting.
They include schools, health centres, libraries, community centres and church halls.
The council will continue to operate from 17 buildings during 2017/18 while decisions are made as to whether or not to sell off more buildings in future years.
Four buildings that definitely will not be closing will be Dewsbury Moor Children’s Centre, Birstall and Birkenshaw Children’s Centre, the Chestnut Centre at Deighton and Colne Valley Children’s Centre at Slaithwaite Town Hall.
These are the council’s four designated centres. Four further buildings will be designated as ‘hubs’ at a later date
Coun Hill 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.
“We are committed to supporting the most vulnerable people in Kirklees and, from the recent consultation, we know there is a high level of public agreement to taking this approach.
“There were over 1,300 responses to the consultation and the majority said it didn’t matter who owned the building – what matters is the quality of service.
“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.
“We are also developing an offer with partners and communities to support people with low-level health and social care needs, ensuring they stay well.
“By helping people earlier, rather than later, we can make a bigger difference.”