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Main children's centres saved - but Redbridge residents will have to pay

PUBLISHED: 17:05 11 April 2019 | UPDATED: 17:05 11 April 2019

Protesters against cuts to children services outside Redbridge Town Hall. Photo by Ellie Hoskins.

Protesters against cuts to children services outside Redbridge Town Hall. Photo by Ellie Hoskins.

Ellie Hoskins Photographer www.elliehoskins.com ellie@elliehoskins.com

The main children's centres in the borough will stay open Redbridge Council has announced.

Protesters against cuts to children services outside Redbridge Town Hall. Shazad Ahyan, two. Photo by Ellie Hoskins.Protesters against cuts to children services outside Redbridge Town Hall. Shazad Ahyan, two. Photo by Ellie Hoskins.

After analysing information from a 12-week consultation on the subject, the local authority said despite sustained funding cuts from central government it would keep the biggest eight hubs open.

However, keeping them going will come with conditions.

The council will offer free access to all services for every family for the first six months after a child’s birth.

After this, users will need to pay £2 per family for sessions, with the council subsidising more than 80per cent of the rest of the costs for the activities.

Protesters against cuts to children services outside Redbridge Town Hall. Photo by Ellie Hoskins.Protesters against cuts to children services outside Redbridge Town Hall. Photo by Ellie Hoskins.

Families who qualify for free childcare for two-year-olds, families supported by domestic violence refuges and families supported by the council’s early help and statutory safeguarding services, will continue to get free access until the child is five.

The number of managers will be reduced “significantly” as part of a restructuring process.

The fate of the smaller children’s centres, known as satellite centres, is undecided.

Redbridge Council said services at Winston Way, Ilford, Chadwell in Grove Road, Chadwell Heath, Forest in David’s Way, Hainault and Oakdale in Oakdale Road, Woodford Green, are still being considered for closure in September.

Protesters against cuts to children services outside Redbridge Town Hall. Photo by Ellie Hoskins.Protesters against cuts to children services outside Redbridge Town Hall. Photo by Ellie Hoskins.

The satellites provide just 32.5 hours of childcare each week with more than two-thirds of activities being delivered in Ilford.

A council spokeswoman said: “Acknowledging the benefit of children’s centres, the post-consultation report recommends retaining all eight main hubs, along with nine satellites – centres which are only open when the council or its partners run sessions.

“The proposal will be considered by cabinet on Tuesday, April 23.”

The spokeswoman explained that national cuts to local government budgets have forced the council to find £166m of savings, nearly 60per cent of its budget, since 2010 but it has kept its children’s centres open and provided free universal services whilst most other local authorities have already reduced provision or closed children’s centres.

Cabinet member for children and young people Councillor Elaine Norman said: “In Redbridge, we completely value our children’s centres and the services they provide to our communities.

“But the reality we face is a hugely challenging financial situation and we could no longer protect the whole service from the government’s irresponsible cuts.

“We said no final decisions would be made until the results of our consultation and we’ve delivered on that pledge.

“The final shape of the service reflects the feedback we received from residents and we will be providing the best possible and most sustainable service given the budget constraints.

“It also means our residents will still benefit from the most comprehensive children’s centre network in east London.

“The timetable for the changes is being managed to give families who use the satellite centres the greatest benefit over the summer holidays.”

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