Council insists new children's centre service 'will cover whole of Sheffield'

Sheffield Council head of children's centre service Nicola Shearstone and project officer Jo Bunting at a drop-in session.
Sheffield Council head of children's centre service Nicola Shearstone and project officer Jo Bunting at a drop-in session.
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Sheffield Council has tried to reassure families that children's centres are not about to close.

The authority is consulting on changes to its support services for young people and families, and has come up with a model that replaces the 16 children's centre areas with seven larger family centre zones.

The move from 16 to seven has given rise to concerns that some of the children's centre buildings will close.

But the council says the new zones are designed to align with other organisations that support families.

It says the word 'centre' is misleading because family support services are not limited to a particular building, and the proposed changes will allow more people to access support through increased outreach and partnership work.

The council's head of children's services Nicola Shearstone said the boundary changes 'won't be noticeable' for families.

"We will still be covering the whole of Sheffield," she said. "We will look at services for children aged nought to 19 and their families, and we will start to look at more deprived communities.

"For the hubs we will ideally choose buildings within the most deprived areas. But we will also use other buildings. We will focus on families where we know they will have more difficulty travelling to access services.

"We are not looking at which buildings we will do away with. It's the names of areas where people are getting concerned.

"We are talking about keeping buildings open and thinking differently at how we use them."

A consultation on the changes has been running since November, and will close on January 31. Several drop-in sessions have been held, and people can comment online.

"We have not analysed it as such but we are getting a positive response," said Mrs Shearstone.

"We have has some worries but they tend to be a bit of a misconception of what we are trying to do. When we have spoken to people directly, they are quite comfortable because they can see we are not taking things away.

"There has been some acknowledgement that some things aren't in the right place.

"The positive for us is that the concerns are not something that would impact the proposal. It's more needing clarification. When we have given that we have got a positive response."

Some concerns have been raised that outlying areas of the city will get less support then central areas.

But Mrs Shearstone insisted that would not be the case.

"We are already reaching out a lot. In some areas a lot of services are like that, and it works very well. But people don't see that as part of the children's centre service."

To have your say visit www.sheffield.gov.uk or call 0114 2813758.

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