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Children's services shake-up agreed by unanimous cabinet

A major transformation of the council’s support for vulnerable families was passed unanimously by members of the Royal Borough cabinet last week.

In what was described as a ‘huge undertaking’ by an opposition member, the Conservative group voted to shake-up the existing children’s services to form one, whole integrated ‘family hub’ service.

The move has undergone months of public scrutiny and consultation, with concerns raised over the impacts on communities if the council went forward with plans to de-designate a number of children’s centres and terminate leases.

The council is also hoping to save money by making the alterations, with two main ‘central hubs’ operating out of Maidenhead and Windsor, and a number of smaller ‘sub-venues’ across both areas.

Cllr Stuart Carroll (Con, Boyn Hill) cabinet member for children’s services and health, said the proposals offered vulnerable families the chance to ‘get all the help they need from one family hub’.

“One of the things that we know when it comes to children and young people is having that flexibility and versatility of model in order to meet the demands, and that is the explicit aim,” he added at the meeting on November 26. 

Under a slight change of plans, the Pinkneys Green Children’s Centre – which was earmarked for closure before consultations – will now be ‘repurposed’ for ‘some’ family hub services.

Liberal Democrat ward councillor Simon Werner said: “I am relieved that you have listened to me and the residents, and are going to be continuing to offer some provision from the centre.”

However, Cllr Werner expressed disappointment about the planned decision to discontinue the lease at Larchfield Youth Centre, where the council currently rents the hall. Nearby Larchfield Children’s Centre will be retained.

“It will be devastating for the residents of the estate: no more private hire of the hall, no more parties; toddler groups,” he said.

Cllr Carroll responded by saying that this is ‘design work’ that is ‘still being undertaken’.

Fellow Liberal Democrat Cllr Amy Tisi (Clewer East) said: “This is a huge undertaking, and it is going to have a huge impact on the lives of our residents.

“I truly hope that this transformation succeeds to support our most vulnerable families.”

It was also agreed at the meeting that Achieving for Children (AfC), a group commissioned to deliver children’s services on behalf of the Royal Borough, should commence implementation of the proposed new model, including staff consultations.

Kevin McDaniel, the council’s director of children’s services, said: “We have chosen the set that we think offers us the best value, both in terms of access for people [and] support for this service that will be reaching out into the community.”

The Marlow Road Youth Centre, where the council agreed to let Maidenhead Community Centre (MCC) occupy, will see youth operations here be ‘based elsewhere’ – but AfC is in discussions with MCC to retain ‘some access for family hub service provision’ at this site.

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