Review of childcare

COUNCIL-RUN childcare services could be taken over by private or voluntary organisations in future in a bid to save £200,000.

Hartlepool Borough Council currently provides childcare through the OSCARS out of school service and Bushbabies and Chatham House day care centres.

But the services are all heavily subsidised, and finance chiefs are carrying out a review due to budget pressures.

It costs the council more than £200,000 a year to run the three sites.

Senior councillors will meet next week to discuss a range of options for the future.

Options include continuing to subsidise them, axing them completely or carrying out a tender exercise for an external provider to run them.

Council officers are recommending councillors back the last option.

Childcare providers in Hartlepool, national providers, and local voluntary and community sector groups that work with children and young people have all been contacted and there have been expressions of interest.

A council report said: “The recommended option is for the council to carry out a tender process whereby external providers are sought to provide the three types of childcare.

“The three local authority childcare settings are not currently sustainable and need significant subsidy from the council to continue to deliver the service.”

If an outside provider is brought in then the staff would be protected through Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) (TUPE) regulations, which protects employees’ terms and conditions of employment.

The council has a duty to ensure there are enough childcare places but it is not required to deliver the childcare.

The out-of-school OSCARS service provides childcare to youngsters aged between four and 16 at two sites; Miers Avenue Sure Start building and Owton Manor Community Centre.

The service, which caters for 50 children at each site, has been operating since 1993 and employs 10 people.

Bushbabies is an all year round nought to five daycare facility, which runs from the Rossmere Sure Start Children’s Centres.

The nursery, which has 98 registered children, has been operating for five years and employs 17 staff.

Meanwhile, Chatham House day care also caters for nought to five-year-olds and it operates from the Chatham House Sure Start Children’s Centre.

There are currently 69 registered children and the centre employs 12 staff.

Independent councillor Cath Hill, portfolio holder for children’s services and Labour councillor Robbie Payne, portfolio holder for finance and procurement, will meet next week to discuss the issue.

The joint portfolio meeting will be held on Tuesday, August 9, at 9.30am at the civic centre.