Hartlepool children’s centre shake-up and redundancies expected as part of £510,000 cuts

Hartlepool Civic Centre.
Hartlepool Civic Centre.

Children’s centres and support services are at risk as part of more than £500,000 cuts to the council department.

Hartlepool Borough Council children’s services committee is having to make £510,000 savings for next year as part of a £5.987million deficit the council is facing for 2019/2020.

Councillor Brenda Harrison.

Councillor Brenda Harrison.

The cuts could also cause potential redundancies in 16 full-time equivalent roles across the service.

Council bosses have attributed the deficit to cuts in Hartlepool’s core government funding, which by 2019/20 will be 45% less than in 2013/14 – a reduction of £20.9m.

As part of the proposals Chatham Children’s Centre is to be closed, while Rift House and Stranton children’s centres facilities will be transferred to schools.

The Lealholme Road site, which used to be office space with some activities taking place, will also close, although it has not been used for around year.

Councillor Marjorie James.

Councillor Marjorie James.

A number of drop in clinics where parents can see health staff for advice and guidance are also set to close.

The facilities will close at Chatham, Stranton and Rift House children’s centres, while the support at St Luke’s Parish Centre will also shut due to ‘consistently low numbers’.

Councillors raised concerns about the impact the closures and redundancies could have on children and families in the area.

Coun Sue Little said: “There’s none of that advice around anymore, I feel so sorry for young people, they are bringing babies up blind.”

Coun Sue Little.

Coun Sue Little.

Coun Marjorie James said: “That could be as much as 24 or 30 staff made redundant when you look at flexible and part-time staff.

“I’m quite disappointed we are giving some of the sites away.”

Coun Ann Marshall said: “I just feel if we are trying to pull back and save as much money as we can we should be saving children’s centres as much as possible, we need to really appreciate the value which they have in the area.”

Several other children’s support sites which are expected to remain open in the short term will also be reviewed further over time.

Council care bosses said the cuts having to be made as part of the £6million deficit will make next year ‘the most difficult they have faced’.

However they said they have aimed to make cuts which will have the least impact possible and targeted services not well used.

Danielle Swainston, assistant director, joint commissioning, said: “The bottom line is if you are taking £500,000 out of the budget it’s going to have an impact somewhere.

“What we have tried to do is take it out of places where it would be least worst.

“There is the potential for 16 redundancies however we are continuing working to mitigate these issues by holding vacant positions.

“We have already done a voluntary redundancy sweep across the department.”

Sally Robinson, director, children’s and joint commissioning services, said: “Our ambition is to make sure we have responsive dedicated services which reach the most vulnerable in our community.”

Coun Brenda Harrison, chair of children’s services, hit out at government cuts for the position it has left the council in, but backed staff to do the best job they can.

She said: “The Government has put the council in an improbable position.

“This is not the first case of cuts like this, it’s an awful situation.

“For something like children’s services to be reduced back so much, it is putting people in such an awful position.

“I have every confidence in the people dealing with this that they will do things the best they can to disrupt things as little as possible.”

In total £460,000 would be saved from reshaping the early help service, with proposals to move from four to two locality teams where health, family support and children’s centres activities will be fully integrated.

The proposals also involve the council looking to make £60,000 savings in its children’s social care family support arrangements.

The proposals and response will be reported back to Hartlepool Borough Council’s finance and policy committee next month.

Nic Marko , Local Democracy Reporting Service