Children's centres: hopes to ease fears

Yeovil Express: CLLR Frances Nicholson. CLLR Frances Nicholson.

PARENTS and families worried about the future of Ashlands Children’s Centre in Crewkerne can air their concerns at a public meeting.

Somerset County Council will be talking through its proposals at the start of March, among talks with 11 centres over the next three weeks.

Public meetings over the rest of the 18 centres set to be stripped of their children’s centre title, or de-designated’ – including Ile Valley in Ilminster and Chard Children’s Centre – will be held later next month as the council is still negotiating where services currently run at the centres could be held.

Cllr Frances Nicholson said: “In November I said people would have a further chance to have their say before any decisions are made about the individual centres and this is now under way.

“The proposals for the centres will mean people will continue to get at least the same support they get now from the same buildings – if anything that support will be increased.

“I hope these meetings lay to rest any concerns that people may have had locally about the services that they, like the council, value so highly.”

The meetings will offer a chance to suggest extra services either in the buildings where the children’s centres currently are or delivered elsewhere in the community as the council looks to improve its early help offer for children and families.

The News reported last month that Action for Children, the charity which runs family and toddler groups at the three facilities, was unable to agree a one-year extension to its contract with the county council due to a cut in the fee offered.

Lee Furniss, the charity’s operational director, said: “We have long provided high quality children’s centre services in Somerset, working with parents, carers, the community and partner organisations to make a positive difference to the lives of the county’s children.

“Our highest priority is the well being of these children and our staff teams, and we are working closely with Somerset County Council to ensure a smooth handover of services.”

The public meeting for Ashlands is on Thursday, March 6, from 6-7.30pm or Friday, March 7, from 2-3.30pm at Woolavington Pavilion.

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