Warwickshire children centres will remain open, but 30 per cent budget cut will impact on child poverty

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All the county’s children’s centres will remain open, but reductions in funding will worsen child poverty, according to councillors.

The Early Years Offer, which provides free education for disadvantaged two to four year olds, will also no longer be available in all centres, putting extra strain on some parents.

The county has 39 children’s centres , which are seen as tools in the fight against poverty and inequality, but has reduced their budget from £7.5m to £5.3m due to a drop in funding Warwickshire County Council receives from the government.

While all centres are safe until next year’s budget, announced next February, the council has been made to acknowledge that there is likely to be increased child poverty in disadvantaged areas.

A letter to the council’s cabinet from Cllr Bob Hicks, chairman of the children and young people overview and scrutiny committee, states: “As a responsible tendering organisation, it is important to fairly and openly acknowledge the likely negative impacts that the significantly reduced budget will have on families in Warwickshire.”

He added: “The breadth and range of services may be reduced within all areas of the county and reduced more significantly in less disadvantaged areas.

“This could have a greater impact on those vulnerable families living in challenging circumstances within affluent areas where they already have reduced access to services or dilute services for the most disadvantaged families in areas of high deprivation.”

While councillors haven’t speculated on the matter, it’s likely the centres will face further funding reductions due to the additional £94m worth of savings Warwickshire County Council needs to make by 2018.

Conservative councillor Conservative Cllr Heather Timms, responsible for children and schools, told the Advertiser earlier this month: “One good piece of news coming out of this is that no children’s centres will shut, but nobody seems to be focusing on that.

“In these times, keeping them all open is a significant achievement. The equality impact assessment identified a risk that services would diminish, however we will be commissioning services based on need within a group, rather than one-size-fits-all, to reduce the risk.”

Cllr Jonathan Chilvers, who also sits on the children and young people overview and scrutiny committee, said that central government had a case to answer when it came to service cuts.

He added: “I’m surprised people aren’t banging on George Osborne’s door making it clear that local authorities and the vital social services they provide cannot function on the amount of money they are getting.”