Proposed closure of 32 children and family centres in West Sussex to be discussed

Plans to close 32 of the 43 children and family centres in West Sussex are to be discussed by a scrutiny committee in the new year.

Wednesday, 30th December 2020, 5:24 pm
The closure of 32 centres has been proposed

The closures are proposed as the county council attempts to improve and redesign its Early Help services, increasing support for vulnerable children and families and hopefully reducing the pressure on children’s services further down the line.

If agreed, the changes would also see all 12 of the Find It Out youth advice centres closed as well.

All together, this would chop £1.95m from the council’s expenses.

A report to the Children and Young People’s Services scrutiny committee, which is due to meet on January 7, pointed out that ‘only a small part’ of the Early Help work actually took place in the centres, with most being carried out in people’s homes, schools or online.

On top of that, footfall at some of the centres – especially in Mid Sussex and Chichester – was described as ‘very low’, with many of those most in need of help not attending.

The aim is to work closer with schools and Children’s Social Care to make sure the most vulnerable get the help and advice needed.

Jacquie Russell, cabinet member for children and young people, said: “The priority of our Early Help service is to work with the most vulnerable children and families.

“We have made significant investment in our children’s services and are starting to show real improvements which has been recognised by the Department for Education.

“As part of our improvement plan we need to be more targeted in reaching the families we know need the most help and support.

“These plans would help us to do that.

“Rather than expecting vulnerable children and families to come to us, our plan is for our staff to go to them.

“These proposals are about doing the best we can for vulnerable children and families.

“Any changes made will be subject to full and thorough consultation where I would encourage people to come and have their say.”

The ten-week consultation is expected to be launched in March, with a staff consultation following in August.

The changes could mean bad news for some of the staff, with a number of jobs on the line.

The report to the scrutiny committee said 25 posts had already been dropped by not replacing staff as they left – but as many as 50 more could go.

The aim is to keep this to a minimum by relocating people to new roles.

If the changes are agreed, centres would remain at Tree House, in Bognor; Wickbourne, in Littlehampton; Bewbush and Broadfield, in Crawley; Durrington, Haywards Heath, Kingston Bucci, in Shoreham-by- Sea; Lyndhurst Road, in Worthing; the Worthing Library project, St James, in Chichester; and Needles, in Horsham.

To see the full proposals, log on to https://westsussex.moderngov.co.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=164&MId=2361&Ver=4.

The meeting starts at 10.30am on Thursday January 7 and will be webcast using the same link.