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Children's centres set to close as cabinet opts for hub model

Several Royal Borough children’s centres are set to shut as the council switches to a central hub ‘model’. The cabinet agreed to the proposals at a cabinet meeting held via video conference last week.

The Royal Borough’s children’s services are set to be transformed as many centres are closed down to be replaced with central ‘hubs’.

On Thursday, April 30, for the first time since the coronavirus lockdown started, a council meeting was held via video conference and was broadcast live to the public on Youtube.

At the meeting, the cabinet unanimously agreed to adopt a new way of delivering children’s services in the borough. The changes will see help for the most vulnerable children, young people and families made the priority, in favour of a more universal approach.

The changes, which are also designed to save the council £600,000, will see several children’s centres closed down across the borough, with all services moved into two central hubs operating out of three venues in Maidenhead and three venues in Windsor.

Speaking about the proposals, Cllr Ross McWilliams (Con, Cox Green) lead member for housing, communications and youth engagement, said: “When I went on a tour of nine of our children’s centres, the one overwhelming response I got from staff and people delivering the services was relief, or understanding that this is something a number of councils have already done, and that this is the right way to be delivering services in a more targeted way.”

Before lockdown began, a 12-week consultation was held on the proposed changes, to which 501 responses were received. The consultation consisted of an online survey, six focus group meetings and two staff workshops.

About 36 per cent of respondents agreed with the proposals, 32 per cent said they disagreed, and 32 per cent stated they were either neutral or did not know. Kevin McDaniel, Royal Borough director of children’s services, stated that these figures formed a ‘clear mandate’ to go ahead with the plans.

The changes will also mean the removal of 24 job roles, resulting in 17 redundancies.

As part of the Maidenhead hub, the Larchfield Children’s Centre and Marlow Road Youth Centre and Riverside Children's Centre will remain.

Meanwhile, Poppies Children’s Centre, Datchet Children’s Centre and Manor Youth Centre will form the Windsor Hub.

These venues will host familiy resilience services, children’s centres, youth services, health visiting and school nurses. Emphasis will also be placed on outreach work, delivering services to those most in need at their homes.

One of the 14 centres that will close is the Pinkneys Green Youth and Community Centre. Speaking at the meeting, Cllr Simon Werner (Lib Dem, Pinkneys Green) said: “A few years ago me and my wife used the services at Pinkneys Green Children’s centre and it was so valuable, it aided us so much as first-time parents, and it was the mix of people that was so wonderful.

“Theresa May has argued in favour of the just-about-managing - ‘the ‘jams’. It’s the jams, the people that you don’t know about, who are going to suffer.

“It's so important that we are not just helping the most vulnerable but the whole tranche that are just about managing.”

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