CHILDREN’S centres in Burton and South Derbyshire have seen a dramatic increase in the amount of families accessing services in recent years, with more than 75 per cent of youngsters in one area receiving help in one form or another.
More than 4,000 children under five now use services in South Derbyshire – some 76 per cent of the children in that age group in the borough.
East Staffordshire has also seen a substantial rise, in a situation which bosses have put down to population growth and an increase in referrals for disadvantaged families in the area.
The high quality of services is also a driver, according to Derbyshire County Council, which provides services including parenting courses, speech and language development, baby massage and cook and play sessions at centres in Church Gresley, Coton in the Elms, Etwall, Newhall and Woodville.
A spokesman for the authority said: “This means more people are registering to come along. We also provide outreach work in our rural communities which makes our services accessible to all.
“Inspectors from Ofsted recently rated two centres in the Newhall group very highly.
“They found the centres offered a good quality service, with inspectors commending their highly effective work in providing timely and valuable support and development opportunities for families.
“Inspectors also said parents who use the centres are ‘very positive about the quality of their experience and the benefits to them’.”
But despite the plaudits, children’s centres are among the services facing cuts as the council aims to slice its budget following a reduction in Government funding which has left the authority facing £157 million cuts over the next five years.
Council leader Anne Western has said the amount of children’s centres in the county was ‘unsustainable’ in light of the reductions, and it was inevitable some would go.
The authority confirmed this week there would be a consultation, but nothing would be decided until the new year.
Over the last three years, the number of children under the age of five using services at the centres has shot up from 1,300 to 4,124 – a total of 76.1 per cent of that age group.
Over the river in East Staffordshire, the increased demand has been put down to a boom in population.
In contract to Derbyshire, Staffordshire County Council, which runs centres in Burton, Winshill,. Stapenhill, Stretton, Yoxall and Barton under Needwood, has committed to keeping centres open, though services have been ‘redesigned’ to have more of a focus on the most vulnerable children and families.
Some services have been put out to tender for private firms, and, as a result, there are now more sessions available, including family support, parenting skills and nature play and creativity
Councillor Robbie Marshall, cabinet member for health and wellbeing, said: “Tightening budgets have put pressure on children’s centres across the country but the approach Staffordshire County Council has taken, which combines universal and targeted children’s centre service provision, is already seeing positive results by stopping problems before they become worse.
“Our aim now is to ensure that the services available at Children’s Centres right across the county continue to adapt to the needs of the community and support those children and families that need the help and support the most.
“Furthermore, by recognising that the county council is not always the best organisation to deliver services, it has been able to deliver savings whilst ensuring that services are sustainable long term.”