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Children’s centres will “struggle” to meet targets after proposed cuts, according to bosses

A GROUP of children’s centre bosses say planned council cuts will leave them struggling to meet targets in helping disadvantaged families.

Representatives of groups that run half of the children’s centres in the district attended a meeting of Bradford Council’s Children’s Services Scrutiny Committee to discuss plans for major cuts to the early help and prevention service.

Up to 240 full time posts could be axed from the department, which helps families deal with young people’s issues such as health, youth offending and school attendance.

The Council says the £13 million cut was needed because of reduced government funding.

It is expected the cuts will hit services that are currently offered by Bradford’s children’s centres.

A consultation into the planned cuts closed earlier this week.

Wednesday’s meeting was attended by bosses of the Lister Park cluster of centres, the West Bradford Cluster and the Airedale and Wharfedale cluster – which represent around 50 per cent of all centres.

They presented an alternate plan to make savings, which would see more services provided from schools and health centres as well as children’s centres, the creation of up to 20 “family hubs,” and fewer job losses than the Council’s proposed plans.

They said they were “not precious” about losing physical children’s centre buildings if it meant they could keep staff in the areas of the district where they were most needed.

Earlier in the meeting the committee heard that the centres were working towards seven “key performance indicators” including reducing obesity by 10 per cent in reception classes, helping children reach a good level of development, cutting the number of mothers smoking during pregnancy by a quarter and reducing poor dental health by 10 per cent.

The committee was told that the centres were currently making good progress on these measures.

The representatives from the centres were asked whether they could still meet these targets if the planned council cuts came into effect.

Tahmima Tahir, head of the Lister Park Cluster, said: “There is no way we’d be able to meet these indicators, we just wouldn’t have the resources. We just couldn’t have the same indicators under the new structure.”

Michael Jameson, strategic director for children’s services, said the consultation into the cuts, which started in November, had yielded over 700 responses. When asked about the concerns that the cuts would harm services, he said: “There will be a significant level of investment disappearing. Ideally I never wanted to have been sat here saying we have to take that much money out of one service.

“It is a very difficult situation, and we are trying to do the best we can.”

Among the recommendations made by the committee was that Chair Councillor Dale Smith (Cons, Wharfedale) write to the government and call for them to change their plans to reduce funding to Bradford Council.

They will also ask the council to consider the financial costs of retaining “under used” children’s centre buildings, and whether this money could be better spent on staffing.

A final decision on the proposals will be made in April.

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