Warning over Blackpool children's centres shake up

Union leaders have warned a shake up of children’s centres in Blackpool will lead to some people losing their jobs and a ‘much reduced’ service for residents.

Six  children’s centres attached to schools are to be scaled back because they can no longer be funded by government education grants amounting to £1m  a year.

This will leave just three dedicated children’s centres in Brunswick and Talbot, Grange Park and Revoe.

The changes, which have been agreed by the council’s executive committee, are due to be implemented next January and will affect up to 25 jobs although it is not known how many redundancies there could be.

Neil Adams, Blackpool Council branch secretary of local government workers union Unison, said: “The Labour council should really be honest with our local communities about what is going on here – six children’s centres are essentially closing and offering a much reduced service, only three survive.

“These proposals will hit staff with job losses and changes in hours they cannot afford.

“We are concerned children and their families will also be left without readily accessible services close to where they live.

“Children’s centre staff are extremely worried how these families will continue to access services when they are moved miles away.

“Families will need to find both extra time and travel costs and if they cannot, may well fall through the net.  Staff are rightly worried that the most vulnerable will suffer the most.“

Unison members demonstrated outside the Town Hall in protest at the decision.

None of the buildings will close, and services such as baby weighing clinics will continue but it is not yet known what other services will be delivered through the six scaled back centres.

Coun Kath Benson, cabinet member for schools, education and aspiration, said: “Losing a million pounds of Government funding is undoubtedly going to impact on the service  and difficult decisions have had to be made.

“However, I am confident  the new model will provide an enhanced offer at three main locations whilst still retaining the six centres for the council and our partners to use as a base to run vital services.

“The next stage is to consult with the community to ensure  we understand the services they want and need.

“The affected staff are currently being guided through a consultation process. I know it is an uncertain and upsetting time and they will be supported.”

Blackpool’s school based children’s centres have been funded by £1m of Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG) but the government has now ruled the money cannot be used in this way.

The remaining children’s centres will be funded using council cash.

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