Children’s centres in Burnham-On-Sea and Highbridge could be set for big changes under proposals set to be unveiled by Somerset County Council.
The authority has released draft plans showing which of its centres would stay open as part of a major reorganisation of the service to cut costs and redesign its offering.
The council is proposing to keep eight main ‘family centres’ open – as opposed to the current 24 – but the public is to be asked for its view on the changes during a consultation period before any final decisions are taken.
The authority says in its draft document that the eight family centres would be located in “areas of greatest need” in Bridgwater, Highbridge, Yeovil, Frome, Glastonbury, Williton, and two in Taunton. Burnham-On-Sea is not mentioned on the list.
Alongside the main centres there could be other places where services could be offered to families – sometimes in existing buildings that may not be referred to as children’s centres. It also wants to run services from community venues, such as schools, village halls, health clinics and libraries.
The council also added that it hopes to offer more outreach services, put more emphasis on visits to families in their own homes, as well as putting more information online.
While the council is under pressure to cut costs, it says the proposals will ‘create a service which provides the right support for families where it is needed the most’.
A Somerset County Council spokesman confirmed to Burnham-On-Sea.com: “A consultation will be launched this week regarding proposals to change the way support for families is provided, which includes the role of Sure Start children’s centres.”
A final decision on the plans is set to be taken by councillors early in 2018 after consideration of the feedback from members of the public during the consultation phase.
In 2013, the council consulted on the future of children’s centres and came up with a proposal to “de-register” 18 of them, keeping 23. However, the plan was scrapped following a public backlash with petitions and protests.
Children’s centres are in places where parents of typically pre-school children can go for help with things like breastfeeding, budgeting, making healthy choices for their family and postnatal depression.
Legally, the centres have to be used for children but don’t have to be used as children’s centres.