Despite months of campaigning, Buckinghamshire County Council has finally passed the decision at a cabinet meeting to close children’s centres across Buckinghamshire.
I attended the meeting to see if they could give any justification for the decision, or assurances that they will closely monitor changes to make sure that vulnerable children did not miss out.
The numbers are shocking
Over the last five years the Council has seen a 53% increase in children in need; 160% increase in the number of children subject to a child protection plan; and a 14% increase in the number of looked after children.
We agree with the council that something needs to change. Yet, it is a fallacy to believe that closing centres is the right way to approach it. The councils report states that they will put in place area teams with officers and links to school, but there are no details about how this will happen and what services families can be referred to?
How are parents supposed to access support services if they have to travel a long way to do it? We need centres and services as well as an outreach team.
The only answer that they council can give about access is that they will have a website. What happens to parents who don’t have ready access to the internet? Warren Whyte, the councillor in charge of the changes acknowledges that language can be a barrier to families getting the right help, we need more than a website to make sure that families get the right help at the right time.
There is a financial crisis facing children’s services nationally. We will not be able to ensure the future of our children until we have a Labour government that will invest in them.