Children’s Centres Under Threat

At the Cheshire East Council Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, the Conservatives came under pressure over plans for Children’s Centres in Sandbach, Knutsford, Macclesfield and Nantwich. The importance of Children’s Centres was first raised by a member of the public who passionately explained how she had been helped by her local Children’s Centre. This was picked up by Labour councillors Sam Corcoran and Nick Mannion who represent areas where Children’s Centres are under threat. Cllr Sam Corcoran drew attention to the extra 2 x £3m of government funding for Cheshire East Council in 2016/17 and 2017/18 that had been announced on Monday evening. Cllr Corcoran was then stopped from speaking by Cllr David Brown who was chairing the Cabinet meeting in the absence of Cllr Michael Jones. Cllr Nick Mannion then picked up the debate and asked whether £500,000 of the £3m extra funding could be used to protect Children’s Centres for 2 years while other ways of maintaining the sustainability of Children’s Centres were explored.

Nick Mannion, Labour Councillor for Macclesfield West & Ivy which covers the Broken Cross Children’s Centre, said, “The new Conservative leader said that the final decision would not be taken until the Council meeting on 26 February 2016. I hope that the results of the consultation which only closed on 12 February will be properly considered at that meeting. The money is available to reverse the proposed cuts to Children’s Centres if that is what the Council decides to do.”

Sam Corcoran, Labour Councillor for Sandbach Heath & East, said, I believe that Children's Centres were originally set up to help, not the most deprived children, but those in danger of falling into that category. The 2015 indices of deprivation show that the area around the Sandbach Children's Centre falls precisely into that category as it is in the second lowest decile for health and education.

A recently published 6 year study by Oxford University shows that Children's Centres are effective in supporting families and that they work particularly well when their funding is NOT being cut and management changed. Yet Cheshire East Council is planning to do exactly what the research says damages outcomes – cutting funding and changing management.

I would also like to make a subtle but important point. Children's Centres support families. There is a danger that we talk too much about children and not enough about the families and communities in which they live.

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