Sure Start centres will ”not close” says council 

Reports of a planned closure of Sure Start children’s centres in Hammersmith and Fulham are false, claims the council.

Reports of a planned closure of Sure Start children’s centres in Hammersmith and Fulham are false, claims the council.
But budget cuts will impact on the centres, admits the council, and it is looking for help from the community to plug the gaps.
Reports had been circulated that the west London borough was seeking to close some Sure Start centres, but this has been refuted – the council now claims it will open up an additional centre.
Simon Jones, a spokesman for Hammersmith and Fulham, said: ”All children’s centres will continue to receive funding, but there will be some reduction in the budget because we have got to save £65m over the next three years and we have lost a considerable Government grant.”
Critics of the Government’s austerity measures have warned a cut in Sure Start services would impact badly on children under the age of six.
Earlier in the year, Prime Minister David Cameron had pledged to keep Sure Start and improve it.
Hammersmith and Fulham will have 16 children’s centres when the new one opens in a local library.  The council says it will have to make savings of £6.95m in its children’s services next year – so it is seeking help from volunteers and community groups.
Cllr Helen Binmore, cabinet member for children’s services, said: ”Recent media reports that we are closing centres are not true.  In fact, we are planning to open an extra centre which shows how committed we are to  helping children in the borough get the best start in life.
”Our top priority is to work with vulnerable families in order to help them to help themselves to get on in life.  We are being creative and making it easier for families to access services whilst improving the support provided to our most vulnerable families.
”Our flagship Family Support Programme will ensure that when families come to our radar with complex social care needs we will be able to helpe them with a range of services covering education, health, employment and benefits support.”
However, a public consultation on the detailed changes at the centres will start shortly.
It’s likely that the council will be asking local schools, community and voluntary organisations and health providers to share in the running of the 16 centres, continuing the move over recent years to combine children’s centres with other local services such as schools’ extended day provision.
Cllr Binmore said: ”We want to avoid having to close any centres and our initial discussions with other local organisations suggests that, by working creatively together, we will be able to find significant savings from sharing running costs and by reviewing the range of services on offer at each centre.”

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