Controversial change to Sheffield children’s centres

Sally Pearse, of Tinsley Children's Centre

Sally Pearse, of Tinsley Children's Centre

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CALLS have been made for Sheffield Council to provide subsidies to nurseries to help them cope with a change in how they are funded - or several risk closure.

Sheffield Council is losing £3.3 million it is paid by the Government to fund early years education - with funding instead handed directly to nurseries by the Department for Education based on enrolment.

Jackie Drayton

Jackie Drayton

An internal Sheffield Council report reveals four nurseries - Sunshine Pre School, Woodthorpe; The Meadows, Shirecliffe; Tinsley Green and Shiregreen - are vulnerable to closure.

Another six - Darnall; Ellesmere; Sharrow; Watoto, Burngreave; Fir Vale; Tiddlywinks, Arbourthorne - could have services reduced.

The situation has alarmed opposition councillors.

Coun Colin Ross, Sheffield Council’s opposition Liberal Democrat spokesman for children and young people, said: “As a result of Government funding for two-year-olds there will actually be more money available for Sheffield children’s centres next year.

Protest outside Sheffield Town Hall against children's centre closures

Protest outside Sheffield Town Hall against children's centre closures

“However, local providers need help and support to adapt to the new system.

“The council has made guarantees to local staff and parents but it‘s now clear that a number of centres could struggle to stay open during the transition. Labour leaders have been strong on words but short on action.

“If we are serious about maintaining the excellent services centres need concrete financial support in this period of transition.”

The council is also having to cut £3.5 million from Sure Start Centres, which provide help with parenting and health matters.

Project manager Sally Pearse with children in the nursery at Tinsley Green.

Project manager Sally Pearse with children in the nursery at Tinsley Green.

Sheffield’s 36 Sure Start centres are being reorganised into 17 hub centres with the rest downgraded into ‘outreach’ sites.

Officials say they will retain existing services - although parents may have to travel to neighbouring areas and 50 jobs are at risk.

For:

Coun Jackie Drayton

Sheffield Council’s cabinet member for children and young people’s services

“The Government’s cuts have forced the council to make savings of £140 million in the past two years with £50 million to come next year.

“They have taken £6.8 million of funding from our Early Intervention Grant, which pays for early years work including nurseries and children’s centres, leaving us unable to support childcare providers with subsidies.

“However, we will do all we can to help these providers produce business plans so they can stay open.

“We are committed to making sure there are enough childcare places in Sheffield for children and families that need them.

“We are doing everything we can to protect children’s centre services.

“Through making savings on administration and premises costs, we are protecting services as far as possible.

“I want to make it clear we are not closing children’s centre services which will continue in the same areas.”

Against:

Sally Pearse,

Tinsley Children’s Centre

“Collecting 10,000 signatures from parents and families against the council’s plans have not made any difference at all.

“The council is pressing ahead with its redesign without making changes.

“There are a number of providers of childcare who currently rely on subsidy are at risk of closure.

“Government funding which is replacing the council grant is based upon enrolment and we have 21 children signed up.

“We would be paid just £58,000 a year when Sheffield Council charges us £70,000 a year to rent our building at Tinsley Green. Our overall running costs are £190,000 a year.

“We want the council to provide contingency funding and to put together an advertising campaign to ensure all parents know their children’s entitlement to free nursery places.

“The advertising campaign would improve enrolment and raise our income.”

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