· Authorised a 6 week consultation on options for change to the Council’s Children’s Centres, including proposals to reduce the number of buildings and reduce the amount of childcare provision being directly provided by the Council.
· Noted that a report will be presented to Cabinet in the Spring 2023 for a decision on the proposal.
The Associate Director for Education and Inclusion gave a presentation on the options for change to the Council’s children’s centres and early education and child care provision delivered from them.
The Cabinet was recommended to agree that a six-week consultation take place on options for the children’s centres, including proposals to reduce the number of buildings and reduce the amount of childcare provision being directly provided by the Council. Following a needs analysis and service review, the reasons for change were set out:
· The need to consolidate resources to enable Children’s Centre functions to be renewed;
· The need to enable key Children’s Centre functions to be fulfilled and focused on core Children’s Centre requirements; and
· The recognition that resources and associated approach needs to enable and ensure the coordination and targeting of early childhood services at the most vulnerable.
The recommended option was to create a new 3 centre model by closing 7 of the existing 10 children’s centres to establish a new model of delivery serviced by the existing centres at Penn Road, Chalvey Grove and Romsey Close, plus Yew Tree Road Early Education and Childcare provision. Commissioners had commented that rationalising provision was the right approach, but that effective programme management needed to be in place to ensure successful delivery.
The Cabinet had a wide ranging discussion on the proposal. It was noted that a majority of local authorities had already rationalised children’s centre provision over the last decade as national priorities had changed. Early years was acknowledged as being fundamentally important and the new model needed careful consideration to ensure it could still deliver effective and responsive services.
The 3-centre model proposed as the recommended option would reflect the Council’s future operating model and provide facilities that were still accessible to residents. Lead Members recognised the need to make savings and that Slough had an over-provision of children’s centres with a universal offer that was not well targeted. It was also emphasised that the decision for Cabinet at this stage was to commence a consultation and it was important that people’s views were heard. Lead Members expected to see a good and effective consultation process undertaken which involved service users, other residents and partners. The Cabinet requested that officers ensure the consultation was inclusive and was accessible to those with language barriers.
A report would come back to Cabinet in the Spring of 2023 following the consultation. Lead Members highlighted that they would require a full Equalities Impact Assessment to be carried out prior to taking any decisions on the future model.
After due consideration the Cabinet agreed the recommendation to commence a consultation and receive a further report in the Spring of 2023.
(a) That a 6-week consultation on options for change to the Council’s Children’s Centres, including proposals to reduce the number of buildings and reduce the amount of childcare provision being directly provided by the Council, be authorised.
(b) That it be noted that a report would be presented to Cabinet in the Spring 2023 for a decision on the proposal.