Susan van de Ven

Liberal Democrat County Councillor for Bassingbourn, Melbourn, Meldreth and Whaddon Learn more

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Children’s Centres: what’s on and what’s gone

by Susan van de Ven on 26 November, 2018

Earlier this month I attended a meeting of the Children and Young People’s Committee, which was considering a paper on redesigned children’s centre services.

I wanted to find out what progress has been made on re-providing services that were lost when the Bassingbourn Children’s Centre closed, following the council’s vote to cut £900K from its children’s services budget. The branding of the service has been changed too, and is now called the ‘Child and Family Centre’ service, officially meant to cover ages 0-19.

Bassingbourn’s building has ceased to operate as a centre, but is still owned by the council. It’s good to be in touch with the Pre-school, who’ve agreed to take on the premises on a lease arrangement. They themselves provide a key service for young families, and have been waiting for details from the council on the terms of their lease which has yet to be drawn up. I’ve raised the need for better communication with the council, and the sorting out of the lease, and have had a constructive reply from the council team dealing with the lease arrangements.

Bassingbourn is now designated for Child and Family ‘outreach’ provision only. What does this mean? Are people getting the support they need? Given that Melbourn’s ‘Child and Family Zone’ is now the ‘local centre’ for Bassingbourn, how will families without a private car manage to access it? The council says that no one thus far has complained of lack of access to Melbourn due to transport, but we don’t know who’s not accessing the services anymore. I’ve asked if a tracking exercise can be done to understand if families who were accessing Bassingbourn before the closure are now attending Melbourn or elsewhere.

Meanwhile, it’s very good to report that the council now intends to re-establish a Stay and Play and Baby Group, all on a Friday, from January – at the same building which is now leased to the Pre-school, so the space offered back to the council by the new tenant. These sessions would all be provided by Children’s Services staff. I’ll be sure and post whatever new information I have – please do contact me if you have any questions.

It would appear that provision for older children, beyond primary school, has yet to be considered in this new 0-19 framework.

Thanks are due to the Children’s Services staff who are doing their very best in a difficult situation, especially to restoring a level of service to Bassingbourn. The removal of £900K from the Children’s Services budget was the subject of widespread challenge by professionals in a position to know the critical importance of growing not diminishing those services – but a political decision was made at odds with the advice received. The job now is to help build back as much as possible.

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