4Children warns cuts to children’s centres risks damaging essential services for hundreds of thousands of families

28 October 2015

The leading children’s charity 4Children has warned that government funding cuts to children’s centres are putting essential services to hundreds of thousands of families at risk. 4Children’s annual ‘Children’s Centre Census’, whose findings were based on the responses of 400 centre managers accounting for over 1,000 Children’s Centres, found that over two thirds (68 percent) have had their funding cut in the past financial year.

Children’s Centres were first introduced 17 years ago under the Labour government and are a central hub within communities; providing essential frontline services such as childcare, early education, health and family support to over 1.1 million children and families in the UK.

However, budget cuts have led to the closure of hundreds of centres, with a further 130 currently at risk of closure, whilst 50% of centres experiencing funding cuts predicting direct knock-on effects to frontlines services, as cuts lead to a reduction in staff numbers and the range of services offered.
Centre managers told 4Children that plans to cut costs include reducing the number of different services provided within centres, limited opening hours and the introduction of charges for services. Furthermore, over 75 percent of those questioned believe they will have to restrict service provision to families with the highest need. 4Children has warned that such changes will limit children’s centres ability to target early intervention support, leading to further costs in the future.

In response to the reports findings, 4Children made a number of recommendations including:

• The Government should prioritise children and families over the forthcoming Parliament and develop a comprehensive strategy to support their development
• Central and local government should maximise the existing infrastructure of Children’s Centres, recognising their value and potential to deliver a range of services at a time when resources are stretched
• Children’s Centres’ partnerships and joint-working should be built on to develop them into Hubs for local services and family support
• There should be a clear commitment to maintain a universal offer alongside targeted services within Children’s Centres

Imelda Redmond, chief Executive of 4Children, commented:

“Over a million families across the country use children’s centres. No other part of our national infrastructure offers the same opportunity to identify and address problems early; bring communities together and make public services work better for families.”

A department for Education spokesman told the Independent: “Councils have a duty to ensure there are sufficient children’s centres to meet local need, and are best placed to decide on provision… later this autumn we will launch a consultation offering parents, carers, councils and key stakeholders, such as 4Children, the chance to influence and drive what we expect from children’s centres”.