Derbyshire council says Bolsover Children’s Centre faces possible closure due to ‘financial challenges’

Derbyshire council’s children’s services chief has told how the authority has potentially earmarked Bolsover Children’s Centre for possible closure due to financial challenges, a lack of resources and the centre’s limited use.
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The Conservative-controlled council recently held a public consultation about the proposed restructure of its provision of Early Help services and Children’s Centres to save around £3.9m as part of the authority’s plans to balance its multi-million pound budget gaps.

And at a Full Council meeting, on March 27, Cllr Julie Patten, Cabinet member for Children and Families, responded to opposition Labour Group Leader Joan Dixon’s request for an explanation for the potential earmarked closure of the Bolsover Children’s Centre possibly among others by claiming financial challenges and the centre’s limited use had influenced the savings plan.

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Cllr Patten told the meeting: “Bolsover Children’s Centre is not used to the same extent as other centres in the locality. The service can be delivered in other centres nearby.”

Derbyshire County Council'S Bolsover Children'S Centre, Based At The Adult Community Education Centre, On Castle Street, BolsoverDerbyshire County Council'S Bolsover Children'S Centre, Based At The Adult Community Education Centre, On Castle Street, Bolsover
Derbyshire County Council'S Bolsover Children'S Centre, Based At The Adult Community Education Centre, On Castle Street, Bolsover

She added that due to ‘significant financial challenges’ faced by the council, the authority does not have the resources to maintain the current 25 centres but for centre-users in the Bolsover district units will still be available at Creswell, Shirebrook, North Wingfield and in Eckington.

Parents and partner agencies were given the chance to submit views during a recent public consultation and help with the council’s review and redesign of its provision of Early Help services and Children’s Centres to make massive savings.

Cllr Patten previously stated the council’s children’s services team had outlined plans to save around £2.8m from the Early Help service and Children’s Centre provision with plans not to extend the Early Help Development Team beyond July 31 reducing demand on the Supporting Families Fund by £1.6m per year.

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She has also stated that local authorities need to find a more efficient way forward with Early Help services and Children’s Centres.

Derbyshire County Council has stated that its battle to meet rising costs faced by its children’s services, adult social care and education is among its biggest financial concerns and that the rising costs are outside of its control.

A recent council report stated at the end of last year that there was a continued demand for Children’s services, Safeguarding and Education services and combined with rising costs this has resulted in the significant estimated budget overspend.

The same report added that expenditure on placements for children in care or alternatives to care has continued to rise due to an increase in the average weekly cost of placements, a shortage of foster care places, and an increase in the number of children requiring support resulting in additional costs for Children’s Safeguarding Services.

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It also stated that a budget forecast overspend on Children’s Services and Safeguarding and Education stood at around £17.9m.

Council Leader, Cllr Barry Lewis, and the Deputy Leader, Cllr Simon Spencer, have also stated the Government needs to make a potential change in legislation with a cap on what the council regards as crippling fees and costs from private providers for some childcare services.

The council reduced its estimated in-year 2023-24 budget shortfall of £46.4m to £34.1m which it intends to further reduce with funds released from earmarked reserves and by tight cost controls on non-essential spending.

However, the council’s review of its Early Help services and Children’s Centres provision is among other saving plans to meet an estimated budget deficit of more than £39m for the 2024-25 financial year which began on April 1.

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The council claims that like many authorities across the country it is facing unprecedented budgetary pressures due to factors beyond its control including high inflation, high prices, meeting the cost of national pay awards, and the continued unprecedented increase in demand for vital adults’ and children’s social care services.

It has also stated that around £3.9 million needs to be saved from the Early Help service and Children’s Centre budgets to balance its budget.

In addition, the council has stated that it wants to make sure that a future service is as good as it can be despite the reduced funding available.

The council is also considering the most efficient use of disabled residential services in one of its separate children’s homes called The Getaway – which provides residential short breaks or care to disabled children – as well as considering the support services provided to families in local communities through its Outback service which supports disabled children in their own homes.

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Cllr Dixon has been working with Bolsover District Cllr Donna Hales and other Bolsover councillors to oppose the earmarked closure of Bolsover Children’s Centre which is currently based at the Adult Community Education Centre, on Castle Street, in Bolsover.

The county council Labour Group Leader criticised the public consultation because she claimed it had not stated which centres had been proposed for closure and one of those is now considered to be Bolsover Children’s Centre.

She also complained the survey had not allowed respondents to comment on this proposed closure and to highlight the expected impact of such a closure for Bolsover users.

And Cllr Dixon claimed at the recent council meeting that there had been no specific briefing about individual children’s services and even after Cllr Patten said officers had provided information, Cllr Dixon argued this had only been received a day before the meeting.

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In a previous statement, Cllr Julie Patten said: “We have always prided ourselves on being a prudent, financially stable and well-managed council, balancing our books from year to year, maintaining a strong level of reserves and keeping council tax as low as possible, while providing vital, value-for-money services for our residents.

“However, we have made no secret of the fact that we are facing pressures like never before, and this is particularly acute in the services we provide for children and families.

“Demand for social care support for children and spiralling costs of private placements, that we have no control over, is costing the council dearly. Other councils are experiencing the same issues.

“We have to do everything we can to make sure we balance our books and ensure we continue to provide services to support the most vulnerable children. This means that we have no choice but to put forward these proposals which, if agreed, could help us to achieve that.

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“We are proposing that we carry on delivering those services we have to legally, and also providing some direct help for families that need our help the most.”

Derbyshire County Council’s Early Help teams and Children’s Centres’ provision delivers a range of services including health visitors, speech and language development, healthy eating, parenting, school readiness, family support, parenting groups, and improvements for family relationships.

The council’s Early Help service is delivered through its Children’s Centres and in families’ homes, and the centre buildings used by the council teams provide support groups and activities and they are also used by other organisations to help children, families and the community.

Among Derbyshire County Council’s Children’s Centres, it has units based across the county including at Heanor, Glossop, Buxton, Brimington, Birdholme, North Wingfield, Shirebrook, Creswell, Eckington, Cotmanhay, Long Eaton and Woodville.

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Following Cllr Dixon’s question to the council about why the Bolsover Children’s Centre is ‘one of those earmarked for closure’, a Derbyshire County Council spokesperson said: ““Following a public consultation into Early Help and Children’s Centres, the council is now analysing the feedback and will bring a report back to Cabinet in the coming weeks for consideration.”