Sheffield children's centres to open up to all ages under new council plan

Early Days in Southey will be one of seven main family centres.
Early Days in Southey will be one of seven main family centres.
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Sheffield's children's centres will have more of a family focus under a new policy due to be approved by councillors this week.

The authority plans to open up the 16 centres that currently deal with youngsters up to five years old to those aged up to 19, or 25 if they have special educational needs or a disability.

Head of service Nicola Shearstone and project officer Jo Bunting at a drop-in session.

Head of service Nicola Shearstone and project officer Jo Bunting at a drop-in session.

The new policy, which will go before cabinet members on Wednesday, will split the city into seven areas, with a main location and several linked sites based at the existing children's centre buildings.

None of the children's centres will close, and the council insists the changes are nothing to do with finances.

The authority also wants to increase the amount of outreach work it does by partnering with other organisations and using a range of existing buildings.

The proposals were put to consultation earlier this year, with more than 600 people responding.

Darnall children's centre will be one of seven main locations.

Darnall children's centre will be one of seven main locations.

According to the council’s head of children’s services Nicola Shearstone, most were supportive of the changes.

"We had some key areas we wanted to establish," she said.

"The first was how families felt about maybe moving areas. For us, that would be improved access.

"And something like 81 per cent said they were quite happy to move, so that was really positive.

"The other question was around changing the age range. Again, people supported that.

"They were the two main changes we wanted to make."

Mrs Shearstone said the positive reaction meant little had changed from the original proposal. But there was some confusion over whether existing children's centres were going to close or not.

To clarify things, those that are not among the seven main centres will be labelled 'linked centres'.

The main centres, based in the more deprived areas, are Early Days in Southey, First Start in Firth Park, Darnall, Shortbrook, Valley Park, Sharrow and Primrose in Walkley.

The changes will be phased in slowly, and Mrs Shearstone said people would not notice any sudden changes.

"We should be able to improve the way people access services, and will develop things based around what the needs of the local area are," she added.

The work will be overseen by partnership boards in the seven areas, which include parents.

"We want to encourage families to get involved," said Mrs Shearstone.

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