To consider any requests received in accordance with Standing Orders.
The Leader of the Council invited Zoi LLeshi and Mr. Issaka Farrakhan to put forward their deputation to Cabinet regarding agenda item 14, Delivering Children’s Centres.
Ms Lleshi began the deputation by expressing her dissatisfaction with the timing of the proposed consultation on the future Children’s Centre operating model which would fall in the summer holiday period where most parents and Children Centre staff would be on leave and therefore the questioned the level of feedback that could be received to support the proposals for the Children’s Centre model going forward.
In essence, the deputation party were opposed to any budget reductions to Children’s Centres budget as they felt any reduction to Children Centres would have a considerable impact on the places available to children and also deprive parents and children of the Children Centres facilities such as ‘stay and play’. The deputation party asserted that existing provision was at full capacity and any reduction would be detrimental. The party pointed to the wider service offer provided by Children’s Centres and how they were greatly valued by parents and families. The deputation party had held parent led meetings at Children’s Centres in the borough themselves who also agreed that any budget reduction would be a mistake.
The deputation party questioned the spending priorities of the Council and Councillors, referenced Islington Council as an authority who were not reducing their Children’s Centre services and further asked the Leader to fully consider if this course of action was in the best interest of local residents.
The deputation further argued that:
The deputation asked the Cabinet to fully consider the future impact the budget reductions and re- designation of some Centres to community access points and the effect this would have on the future outcomes for children in the borough.
The Leader thanked the deputation party for coming forward and expressing their concerns and objections to the recommendations of the Children’s Centre report.
The Leader responded to the points raised in the deputation and asked how the calculation on demand for services had been arrived at. In response, it was noted that, a member the deputation party had interviewed outreach workers at the Children’s Centres whose current personal experience and estimation was that there was no capacity in Centres for additional places.
The Leader advised the deputation that the boroughs of Haringey and Islington were different as the latter had a lower population but had received a higher grant funding for being an inner London borough. Haringey had a higher child population but had always received a less generous settlement for early years funding as it was termed an outer London borough. This deficit in early years funding over the years had culminated in the borough having a harsher financial position for funding. Also the two boroughs had different budget arrangements.
The Leader of the Council advised the deputation that the Council had made a 60% cut to services over a 5 year period following reductions in government grant funding. Therefore, the remaining 40% of the budget inevitably involved changes to service areas. The government were also taking forward a further emergency budget in July and local authorities were bracing themselves for further grant reductions.
Cabinet Members had listened to the feedback from the initial engagement exercise with Children’s Centre stakeholders and had recognised that a core Children’s Centre offer needs to be fully supported so that the Centres are able to meet the requirements of Ofsted and are not set up to fail.
Cabinet Members further considered the importance of retaining the good working network of centres and the importance of a parent’s proximity to local Children’s Centres. This had been factored in the choice of Centres which would have a core Children’s Centre offer and have a balance of services aimed at on early intervention and prevention.
The Cabinet Member for Children and Families further responded to the issues raised in the deputation and re-iterated the need to make reductions to meet budget demands. The statutory consultation would start in June and end in September still leaving some weeks in between the summer holiday period for responses to come forward. There was various stakeholder events organised to maximise the contributions to the consultation.
Councillor Waters recognised the demand for ‘stay and play’ and was hoping that access to this facility can continue in the community access points
The Cabinet Member for Children and Families acknowledged the range of services provided by Children’s Centres and was committed to working with Children’s Centre users to ensure the best use of the resources .She had seen the local film compiled by a group of local staff and users on Children Centres and hoped this enthusiasm for Children’s Centres services can be harnessed to ensure the remaining Children Centre services work well for children and parents.