Council acts to protect and improve children's centres

Last night, Hammersmith & Fulham Council’s Cabinet agreed to extend the contracts of the borough's children's centres, protecting a key local service. Read the full report.

The children's centres cost a total of £2 million a year to run. The difficult budget position facing local government following Government cuts in funding had led to concerns that the service would be reduced.

But Cabinet Member for Children and Education, Cllr Sue Macmillan, has assured residents this is not the case.

"Children's centres are extremely important to some of our most vulnerable parents and their children. They are a hugely valuable community asset and we are looking creatively at how the services they provide can be extended and improved.

Hammersmith residents Shona and her daughter Alaina-Nicole (three and a half years old) have been using the Masbro Children's Centre since she was six weeks old. This is what it means to Shona and her daughter.

"The Masbro is where you can take your children to play in a safe and friendly environment where you know they will be happy and stimulated. A place where you can make new friends, learn new skills and even have the opportunity to volunteer and make the difference."

Last night the council agreed an innovative approach that will protect the service and see public health investment in the centres to promote healthier futures for our children.

Cllr Macmillan explains; "We have also set up a childcare task force involving local people and service providers to look at further ways that we can use the buildings better in the future to extend the support they provide to young families. Ensuring our children's centres survive, improve and thrive in this difficult financial climate is a key priority for this administration.

"Children's centres run 'stay and play' sessions, health advice and wide-ranging support services for all families with young children. They also target parents who are struggling to cope with young families and children from the most disadvantaged backgrounds to make sure help reaches those who most need it.

Extending children's centres could bring better links with local voluntary groups, health services and early intervention services.

Some children's centres in the borough already provide the free childcare places now available to parents of two-year-olds from disadvantaged families. These include Bayonne, Cathnor Park and Masbro children's centres. The childcare task group will be looking at whether other children's centres could follow suit.

Michael Pettavel, Head of the Randolph Beresford Early Years Centre, said: “We are very proud of the services that we run and try to provide our community with a hub that strives to continuously improve what it does and to reflect on the lessons that it learns every day. We have a well-qualified and skilful staff team who are committed to providing the very best. Our children, families and community are a rich source of inspiration to us and we work hard to respond to what they need."

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