Cuts in Birmingham children’s centres will not affect the frontline services

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There are 61 children’s centres in Birmingham. Most communities have at least one, so they are a very visible structure of the local welfare system.

As they were created in different periods and with different purposes, they can be managed by different organisations. So, in Birmingham there are children’s centres led by schools, voluntary organisations or by the City Council itself.

Depending on their structure and on the needs of the community, the services may change but they always keep the general purpose of working with families to provide the best opportunities for children under 5 years old.

Those services offered by children’s centres might include day care, health services, family support or creating links with Jobcentres Plus for unemployed parents. Depending on the kind of centre you will see different types of delivery or different styles of working.

£3m less for children’s centres

The directorate for Children, Young People and Families (CYPF) is reducing its budget by £22.6m and £3m of those will be cut in the centres.

According to the budget, funding for children’s centres comes from three different items and cuts will be distributed as it follows:

  • The early years support service will face a cut £1.35m and they will reach that goal reducing £700k from the quality assurance and £650k from the children centre contingency funding.
  • The childcare sustainability budget will save £650k trough efficiencies
  • From the direct funding for the centres the local authority intends to save £1M

This reduction in the budget doesn’t mean that any centre is going to be closed because the decision made by the council is to distribute the impact of the cuts.

But not all the children’s centres will be affected in the same way. The Cabinet has approved a document where they explain that the reduction in the budget will be made trough efficiencies and that they will cut more in the less deprived areas.

Children’s centres in Birmingham are divided in 16 localities. If any of these localities has more than 80% of children living in the top 10% most deprived areas of the country, there will be no cuts in any of the centres.

For those areas where the deprivation index is not that high, the allocation will be reduced proportionally. For example, in the locality of Aston/Nechells the budget will remain untouched but in the locality of Sutton they will face a reduction of 12.5% of the allocation as the percentage of children living in the most deprived areas of the country is below 29%.

Changes in children’s centres management but not in the service

The cabinet approved a document with some broad guidelines about how they expect to deliver the cuts. They insist in saving money through efficiencies and avoiding any change in the core services.

“The savings can be made without any detrimental effects on frontline family support services and can be made without adverse equalities impact and will enable implementation of the proposal, related planning and service design, and work towards securing improved outcomes for children, young people and families.”

Chris Atkins, who is the Area Manager for the children’s centres in West & Central, confirmed how these guidelines are being applied in the field. According to Atkins, they “have no difficulties in delivering the core purpose to our children and families”.

To reduce the budget, centres are avoiding cuts in what they call ‘frontline services’ and basing the reallocation on changes in the management. That basically means sharing administration services between centres and improving the integration, but it also implies a rearrangement in the grades of the employees when the structure of the management is changed and they assign different duties.

Even though theses changes are not affecting the core services provided, some places have to face redundancies. Julie Doyle, who is the manager for the school-led Perry Barr centres, admitted that they will need to reduce their staff by 2 people to meet the goal of a 7.5% reduction of their budget.

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Author: Duarte Romero Varela

Datajournalist

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