03:00PM, Saturday 13 January 2018
Vulnerable families will be left without safe spaces under plans to slash children’s services in Buckinghamshire, protesters have warned.
Campaigners were outside Burnham Children’s Centre, in Minniecroft Road, on Saturday, January 6, to vent their anger at the proposals put forward by Buckinghamshire County Council (BCC).
If approved, this could see 35 children’s centres in the county replaced by nine ‘early help bases’.
Alexa Collins, chairman of Bucks Labour, said: “They [BCC] issued a report saying this is all about improving services, but what they’re actually proposing is a budget cut of £3.3million.
“You can’t provide a better service with less money.
“When they reduce the children’s centres to the nine hubs you’re going to lose the ability to use these buildings to deliver those services.”
She added: “What Cllr Warren Whyte [Con, Buckingham East, BCC cabinet member for children’s services] has proposed is that these services be provided in cafes and libraries.
“These are not safe spaces, they don’t cover safeguarding or confidentiality.”
The council is due to discuss its budget and plans for children’s services this month.
In December, Cllr Whyte said he wanted to move from ‘reactive services’ to ‘preventative co-ordinated services’.
A consultation which ran from July to October last year, titled ‘Improving early help for children and families’, saw half the 1,991 responders agree with the proposals, compared to 32 per cent who disagreed.
Campaigners, however, remain opposed to cuts to the service.
“We built this place to be a centre of the community, to be a base for parents to be able to turn up there with any issues they had” said Danielle Jones, who was a family support worker at the centre from 2010-16.
“It could be something as easy as potty training or a family experiencing domestic abuse.
“When that’s not in the community any more I don’t know what will happen to those families.”
The plans to overhaul children’s services in Buckinghamshire were given the green light by Buckinghamshire County Council’s cabinet on Monday.
Some of the 35 centres currently in use will be converted to nine new ‘community team bases’, but it is uncertain where services such as post-natal and antenatal clinics or grief counselling will be delivered in the future.
Cllr Warren Whyte (Con, Buckingham East), cabinet member for Children’s Services, said: “This is a great opportunity to support children and families who need us the most.
“By going out to where they are, dealing with the whole family and all of their issues and listening to what families need rather than waiting for them to reach a crisis point, I’m confident we can make some real positive changes for families in Buckinghamshire.”
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