By Emma Harwood

Fourteen children’s centres around the county face closure while 13 youth clubs will have funding axed as part of cost-cutting plans announced by East Sussex County Council.

In a bid to save 2.6 m from its Early Help budget by 2021 the cash-strapped council proposes to stop funding the centres which provide support to parents and children on issues such as breast feeding, sleeping and behaviour as well as child health clinics and creche facilities. 

Centres at The Bridge, Priory Road, Bexhill Road in West St Leonards and Battle are among those affected. 

Funding will also be withdrawn from Cygnets and Rainbow nurseries in Bexhill although the council says it hopes to hear from other nursery providers who could take over the running of them. 

A smaller network of 16 children’s centres and four youth centres will continue to operate across the county while some services, groups and courses would be delivered in alternative buildings or in the family home.

The proposals are now open for public comment under a consultation which lasts until 29th July and organisations and groups who might want to take over the running of the centres are being invited to come forward.

If the plans are implemented thirteen youth clubs currently used by 1,700 young people around the county will also have their funding withdrawn while investment in keywork services – intervention supporting the most vulnerable families – could be cut by almost a third. There would also be a reduction in staffing and administration support as well as creche facilities in children’s centres across the county.

East Sussex County Council (ESCC) announced its ‘core offer’ – a strategy to reduce the level of services provided to a bare minimum – in November 2018. Since the start of the decade ESCC has already slashed its spending by £130 million but from 2020 predicts a funding shortage of £21 million. Under these proposed cuts the council says it will have £4.2 million to invest into its Early Help scheme but it needs to concentrate its limited resources on the most needy and vulnerable families in the area. 

Stuart Gallimore, director of children’s services at ESCC, said: “With reductions in government funding and greater demand for services, it is vital that we use our limited resources in areas where they will do the most for the people of East Sussex, particularly our most vulnerable families.”

“The proposals put forward will help us target our support to more than 2,100 families at risk of crisis each year and 500 vulnerable young people, and continue to offer support to all families of pre-school children.”

Mr Gallimore added: “In drawing up these proposals, we have carried out an extensive review of how we deliver our services, but it is important that we hear how these changes will affect East Sussex families before any decision is made.”

According to Children’s Services, health visitors have assessed seven percent of families with children aged 0-5 as requiring specialist support or critical intervention. Around 4,200 families with children in East Sussex are likely to need help to keep their children safe and healthy. Most are in Eastbourne, Hastings and St Leonards and Bexhill, which have areas of deprivation in the highest ten percent nationally.

The fourteen children’s centres affected by the proposals are: Hampden Park, Old Town, Eastbourne, The Bridge, Hastings, West St Leonards, Chailey, Newhaven, Ringmer, Seaford, Battle, Egerton Park (Bexhill), Rye, Crowborough, Heathfield and High Weald. 

To have your say on the plans visit: https://consultation.eastsussex.gov.uk/childrens-services/public-early-help-survey


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