Children’s centres to focus on children aged up to five, council confirms

The Bowthorpe children's centre. Picture: Bill Smith

The Bowthorpe children's centre. Picture: Bill Smith - Credit: Bill Smith - Archant

Children's centre services in Norfolk will focus only on pre-school age children, the council has confirmed, as a review into how they operate continues.

In February, Norfolk County Council agreed that £5m would be cut from the £10m budget for children's centre services.

The decision to review the services, which are currently universal, proved controversial, with a petition attracting more than 5,500 signatures.

It has so far included little detail, with suggestions including services operating in shared community buildings, such as libraries.

And the council has maintained that it would be 'premature' to speculate over whether any centres would close.

But in a letter to school leaders, the council has now confirmed that support for children aged six to eight will no longer continue from this month, 'enabling more focus on families with children aged 0 to five in the household'.

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They said children's centre practitioners would no longer take the lead on family support plans in households where there are only children aged five and above.

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'They will continue to work closely with schools and settings to ensure that there is a smooth transition for the child and their family and that support can continue where it is still needed beyond the age of five,' they said.

Penny Carpenter, chairman of children's services committee, said: 'We want our children's centres to focus their resources where they are most needed. With £2m less in the budget from April, this means prioritising support to pre-school children, which was children's centres original intention.

'We know that targeted early support to families with the youngest children has the biggest positive impact.

'Children's centre services can still be contacted regarding advice and guidance including how to access other appropriate local services for school aged children but schools will take the lead on supporting children of school age. Both schools and children's centres will work together to ensure there is a smooth transition for older children.'

Today, a handful of Norfolk parents who use children's centres in Norwich will join a march to deliver a card to Westminster highlighting cuts to early years services around the country.

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