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Agenda item

Approval of a New Commissioning Model for Children's Centres in Haringey.

[Report of the Deputy Chief Executive. To be introduced by the Cabinet Member for Children and Families.]The report will ask Cabinet to consider options for the future commission of Haringey's Children's Centres. The paper will summarise the outcome of our statutory consultation exercise and make recommendations to Cabinet for the future delivery model for Children's Centres in the borough.



The Cabinet Member for Children and Families introduced the report which included: detailed feedback from the consultation on the proposed commissioning model for Children’s Centres at Appendix I; the findings of the equalities impact assessment of the proposals at Appendix II, the actions to mitigate the impact on service users; analysis of the issues was contained in the sections of the main report; and the legal duties of the Council were contained in section 8.

The Cabinet Member for Children and Families reminded Cabinet of the context behind the proposed changes to the Children’s Centre services and closure of 9 Centres. The financial challenges the Council was facing over the next three years meant that the Council would have to make some difficult decisions about which services it offers and must ensure that it is utilising remaining resources to best effect.

Councillor Waters acknowledged that 87% of respondees did not want to see closures   and valued the stay and a play provision provided by the Centres. However, these changes would allow the Council to continue to support the community and help provide access to the most vulnerable.

As part of the plans Children’s Centres will deliver services from fewer physical premises, but will continue to offer comprehensive support as well as making services available to more people and ensuring standards were more consistent from place to place. The Council had listened to views about the proposed community access points and these would not be taken forward as their role and focus was not fully understood.  Instead there would be focus on making sure that the remaining Children’s Centres were providing a good comprehensive support with focus on safeguarding and universally accessible services. There will be more integration with health services with a health check provided to all 1 and 2 year olds in the borough. There will be integrated outreach using staff and partners to provide better services to children.

Councillor Waters advised that  there will  continue to be a strong emphasis on parental involvement and the majority of remaining Children’s Centres would be located in areas where need is the greatest. There were plans being developed to expand services to a wider age range of 0 – 19 year olds, or 0 -25 in the case of those children with additional needs.

These Centres will also be open more frequently and will provide additional support to groups including fathers and young parents.

These proposals would see Children’s Centres work more closely with parents, carers, health visitors and GPs, as well as many others in the community to ensure they are able to provide more support directly in the community. 

Councillor Waters advised that there would be a full timetable for development of the Children’s Centres and there was a tremendous amount of information to take forward from the consultation to support this work going forward.

In response to Councillor Morton’s question on the average journey times to the Children’s Centres from their location in the borough, it was noted that the locations had been chosen with the local partner network in mind and there should be no more than 20 minutes travel to the Children’s Centres for parents.

In response to Councillor’ Strickland’s question about good services being  provided with a reduced budget, it was noted that the universal health visits to all 1 and 2 year olds  will actually help the Council see more children and pick up any issues at an early stage and enable families to be signposted to Council or partner services.

In response to Councillor Arthur’s question on the outreach work to be achieved, this would be commissioned according to the outcomes being sought and will help the Council identify the families that need support.

The Cabinet Member for Children and Families also clarified that the buildings of the Children’s Centres that were closing would likely continue to provide early years settings for the community. The Council were exploring how the buildings can be utilised to support the required national changes in the childcare policy, providing more care and preschool education for children.

Councillor McNamara welcomed the increased age range coved by the Children’s Centres and hoped that the Centres could have a role in support  educational welfare activities such as ensuring attendance at school  which was a fundamental  to ensuring  that children are able to develop and achieve  educationally.

Councillor Peacock was invited by the Chair to address the Cabinet.

Councillor Peacock spoke in her capacity as Chair of a Children’s Centres  cluster group, Chair of the Local Planning Group at Park Lane and Vice Chair of the Pembury Children’s Centre. She expressed her disappointment at the proposals to close 9 Centres which she believed would provide additional pressures for staff in the remaining Children’s Centres. Councillor Peacock put forward the concerns of staff in her associated Centre about their changing roles in the new model. Councillor Peacock was concerned that 4 schools would not be participating in the scheme and there would not be a Centre in the west of the borough until a Children’s Centre could be commissioned.

The Cabinet Member for Children and Families responded to the concerns raised by Cllr Peacock by reiterating that the Council had listened to all the views expressed in the consultation.  However the Council would have less money to spend in the future and would need a Children’s Centre model that targets the vulnerable and responds to families with a comprehensive service. A Centre would be commissioned in the west of the borough and this would be in a central location as possible. Cllr Waters clarified that Rokesly school had themselves opted not to have a Centre and Campsbourne did not want to take existing teaching  time away from the school by adding a Centre

In terms of the Bounds Green and Noel Park Centres closing, the Council would ensure that the remaining Centres provide a full comprehensive service.  Cllr Waters provided assurance that there would be detailed discussions with affected staff following Cabinet’s decision with full explanation of the different designations being taken forward.

Councillor Engert came forward to speak and welcomed the universal visits to families with 1 ad 2 year olds by Health Visitors. Cllr Engert further hoped that the location of the new Children’s Centre in the west of the borough would be as central as possible and easily accessible to families.  It was agreed that Cllr Engert be supplied with the estimation of the number of children that the Health Visitors would be visiting in the borough.

Following a vote of Cabinet Members  -




1.    Considered and taken into account detailed feedback from the statutory consultation which is summarised at Appendix I.


2.    Considered and taken into account the findings of the Equalities Impact Assessment at Appendix II.


3.    To take into account the concerns raised as part of the consultation exercise, actions proposed to mitigate these concerns and the adverse impact of the proposals on service users.


4.    To take into account the statutory guidance (Sure Start Children’s Centres Statutory Guidance) attached as Appendix III and to be found at


5.    To take into account the options outlined in the report at Section 5.


6.    To reduce the number of designated Children’s Centres in the Borough from 16 to 9.


7.    To close the following seven designated Children’s Centres by 31st March 2016:


§  Bounds Green Children’s Centre

§  Campsbourne Children Centre

§  Earlsmead Children’s Centre

§  Noel Park Children’s Centre

§  South Grove Children’s Centre

§  Stonecroft Children’s Centre

§  The Ladder Children’s Centre 


Closing these Centres will require the Council to de-designate the Centres by formally notifying the Department for Education (DfE) and Ofsted. Following this, they will no longer be recorded as Children’s Centres on the DfE or Ofsted databases.



8.    To close Rokesly Children’s Centre, a school-based Children’s Centre, at the request of the school’s governing body, by 31st March 2016.


9.    To identify a new provider to deliver Children’s Centre services covering Alexandra, Crouch End, Fortis Green, Hornsey, Highgate, Muswell Hill and Stroud Green wards.


10.  To withdraw the proposal for the development of Community Access Points (CAPs).


11.  To establish five Children’s Centre planning areas, aligned with Haringey schools’ Network Learning Communities (NLCs).


12.  To confirm, that whilst Children’s Centres should retain a focus on delivering services for children aged 0-5 years and their families, future developments should include services for children and young people aged 0 – 19, and 25 where children have additional needs and disabilities, and their families. These early help services, which intervene early to offer support at the right time before needs escalate, will form part of the locality based approach to early help.  


13.  To confirm that the commissioning of children ‘s Centres going forward will be outcomes focused, that the service offer will be informed by differing needs across the borough and that a core universal and targeted service offer will be available from all Children’s Centres.


14.  To prioritise access to Children’s Centre services for Haringey residents.


15.  To increase current service availability across more weeks of the year and note that work will continue with partner services, including health services, to enable greater access to services in the evenings and at weekends.


16.  To bring the current arrangements for Children’s Centre Advisory Boards to an end by 31st March 2016 and establish new Children’s Centre Advisory Boards (CCAB) from April 2016.


17.  To develop Parent Engagement Forums for each Children’s Centre planning area.


18.  To introduce the new model for Children’s Centres in Haringey from April 2016 based on the key points above, including the reduction in the number of Children’s Centres, embedding of Children’s Centres within the wider delivery of early help in localities across the borough, an increased universal and targeted offer, a focus on the family, supporting access to children 0-19 (and 25 for children with additional needs and disabilities), strong links with health and other early help provision and greater parental and resident involvement in delivery and governance. The localities are areas that align with the locality groupings that schools in Haringey are organised by.


19.  The implementation of the recommendations set out above to be delegated to the Assistant Director for Commissioning in consultation with the Cabinet Member for Children and Families.


20.  The implementation of the proposals to be monitored and overseen by the Best Start in Life Priority Board.


Cabinet made the above resolutions taking into account the feedback from the consultation exercise, an appraisal of suggestions made, in terms of costs and impact, our strategic priorities for early help and the anticipated levels of funding available from 2016.


Alternative options considered



Option 1 - The responses to the statutory consultation showed that the majority of respondents did not agree with any reduction in the current number of Children’s Centres in the borough.     


This option would retain the current model and number of designated Children’s Centres in Haringey but strengthen the outreach and partnership approach across the borough. The key elements included in this option are:

§  Maintaining 16 designated Children’s Centres

§  4 hour weekend service provision for 38 weeks per year

§  Dedicated Centre manager for each site

§  Allocation towards building running costs and service delivery


An analysis of this option suggested that this would cost £2.834m in funding.  This is nearly £1m more than the recommended option and over £400k more than the current service delivery cost.


This option has not been proposed for implementation due to the high costs.


Option 2 – This option would propose to implement a commissioning model for Children’s Centre delivery as set out in the statutory consultation. This proposed the retention of 9 designated Children’s Centres and 7 Community Access Points.  If taking forward this option, we would incorporate the feedback from consultees on the numbers of staff and level of running costs required to maintain this particular delivery model.  The key elements included in this option are:


§  Maintaining 9 designated Children’s Centres

§  Maintaining 7 community access point open for 15 hours service delivery per week

§  4 hour weekend service provision for 38 weeks per year

§  Dedicated Centre manager for each site

§  Allocation towards building running costs and service delivery


An analysis of costs suggested that the funding required to meet the delivery model as informed by the consultation would be £2.194m.  This would represent a saving on the current budget but is still £334K more than the recommended option.


This option has not been proposed for implementation due to the costs.


Reasons for decision

The transformation of early years is a fundamental part of the Council’s early help strategy and approach. We recognise that early years represents the best early intervention opportunity to improve outcomes for local residents. Children’s Centres are an important part of the network of services, including early years education settings, schools, health services and the voluntary and community sector, that children and families use in the borough and that provide access to information, support and where required, more specialist services.


The five strategic objectives of our Early Help Strategy 2015-2018 are:

·         Delivering prevention and early intervention to reduce escalation of need

·         Enhancing access to, and co-ordination of, integrated services

·         Sustaining resilience for children, young people and families

·         Developing the workforce to be more confident and empowered practitioners of early help

·         Increasing equity of access to quality provision for all children, young people and families


These objectives provide the framework for the approach we are taking to the development, commissioning and delivery of early help services, including early year’s services, as we progress towards 2018/19.


The proposals set out in this section of the report aim to address the three key outcomes enabled by the Early Help Strategy:


§        Improved family and community resilience

§        Thriving children, young people and families and

§        Strong partnerships, making effective use of resources


The future commissioning model for Children’s Centres


A commissioning approach will be applied transparently and equitably to the delivery of early year’s provision in the borough. This approach will seek to focus funding on the achievement of identified outcomes, rather than on settings, and allow for local variations to meet specific outcomes based on identified need. The new model for delivering Children’s Centres in Haringey will build on the current mixed commissioning model, establishing a more consistent approach across the borough and one that is based on needs, assets and resources. 

Implementing this approach will mean that we will:


§     Commission for outcomes

§     Commission for Children’s Centre integration within a wider early help locality model

§     Commission in a way that builds the engagement of families and strengthens community and individual resilience

§     Commission for sustainability

§     Commission to engage with, and benefit from, the wider opportunities of closer joint working with health,  education, employment and other providers


We are seeking to introduce a more consistent approach to the commissioning of Children’s Centre service delivery and build in greater degrees of flexibility, enabling the model to adapt to changing needs over time.  The emphasis will be less on buildings and more on the network of services that will operate across an area in a range of locations and delivered by both community and professional partners.


Financial Impact


The overall early year’s budget for 2014/2015 was £4.145m. The need to find savings of £1.440m between the financial years 2015/16 and 2018/19 means an overall reduction of 35%. 


In 2014/15, the £4.145m was allocated across early years services as follows:


Budget Area

2014/15 Early Years Budget Allocation (£)

Percentage of the overall

early years budget

Children’s Centres




Haringey’s Early Years Central Teams costs



Early Years Commissioned Services





If the savings had been apportioned to each service area in line with the budget then it would have been necessary to take £835K from Children’s Centres. However, during our engagement process, the importance of maintaining a strong network of outcome focused Children’s Centres services to complement other commissioned services became clear and an alternative approach was therefore taken. Work was undertaken by officers to build up a new model for Children’s Centres service delivery informed by our strategic objectives and feedback from stakeholders, as well as the need to find savings. This produced a very different profile of savings across the early year’s budget.


Area of early years expenditure

2014/15 budget (£)

Total reduction by 2018/19



reduction to

2014/15 budget

Children’s Centres




Haringey’s Early Years Central Teams costs




Commissioned services










The full year cost of the recommended proposals is £1.86m, contributing a financial saving of £545,000 in the early year’s expenditure by 2018-19. Specifically, the budget for commissioning the future Children’s Centre delivery model will be targeted at maintaining a core Children’s Centre offer that we believe can be sustained in the longer term.


The recommendations will enable a continuation of Children’s Centre services with reduced funding and ensure that the active participation and engagement of parents/carers and the community will play a significant part in shaping the Children’s Centre offer over the next three years.


The recommendations will also enable the Council to ensure that limited resources are targeted to best effect and that we believe can be sustained over the next two years. 


Despite the fact that the Council is proposing to close Children’s Centres, we do not believe the outcomes for children, particularly the most disadvantaged, would be adversely affected for these reasons:


The integration of health visiting into the Children’s Centre delivery model which will ensure universal contact with all 0-5 year olds in the borough and the early identification of the most vulnerable


The embedding of the Early Help Locality Model and implementation of the Early Help Assessment Framework which will strengthen the early identification and response to more vulnerable children and their families

Integrated outreach will be delivered in partnership across health, Children’s Centre and voluntary and community sector staff which will enable greater capacity to meet identified need


Despite the fact that the Council is proposing to close Children’s Centres, we believe that this will not compromise our duty to have sufficient Children’s Centres to meet local need, for the following reasons:


Children’s Centres remain universally accessible, strengthened by a core universal offer, outreach and targeted services, which ensures that the proposed network of Children’s Centres is accessible to all families with young children in the borough 


Having taken into account accessibility and transport links as part of developing the proposals, we believe that Children’s Centres and their services will be within reasonable reach of all families with young children in the borough taking into account distance and availability of transport


The proposed offer as set out in s. reflects our joint approach with local commissioners of health, employment and other services to ensure that we can support those families who need services to access t


Alongside the universal offer, we will ensure targeted Children’s Centres services are accessible to young children and families in the area who are at risk of poor outcomes


The proposals build stronger links between Children’s Centre staff and health visiting, early help and voluntary and community sector providers in order to reach all local children and families, supported by effective tracking and information sharing. Our performance management processes will have a particular focus on reach and outcomes for disadvantaged groups


As far as is reasonably practicable, the proposals seek to develop opening times which meet the needs of service users


The main criticisms of the proposals raised in the consultation process can be summarised as:


a)    The closure of Children’s Centres would lead to lack of service coverage, overcrowding at the Centres that remained and further travel for families to access services.

b)    Closure of particular Children’s Centres would lead to a loss of qualified, experienced and high quality staff for the delivery of Children’s Centre services 

c)    There would be a reduction in choice for residents and Children’s Centre users

d)    The increased levels of activity at the Children’s Centres remaining open, could mean a lack of capacity to identify and respond to safeguarding issues at the earliest opportunity

e)    The Community Access Points would lead to a stretching of resources and would lead to a lack of clarity over accountability and governance for service delivery

For further details of respondent’s views on the proposals, see pages 68 -288 of Changes to Haringey’s Children’s Centres: summary report of responses at Appendix I.


Officers believe, as set out in more detail in ss. 6.15 – 6.17 of this report, that the design of the future model responds to these criticisms and that the Equalities Impact Assessment further details how mitigating actions will be taken. In summary, the proposals set out:


·         increased levels of outreach

·         stronger partnership arrangements to ensure commissioned services can contribute to support for children and families

·         the confirmation of an equitable and transparent restructure process across all Children’s Centre sites and of a Children’s Centre manager for each Children’s Centre site

·         the core universal and targeted offer to be in place at each Centre

·         designated Social Worker, Health Visitor and Family Support Worker arrangements for each Children’s Centre

·         increased family support early intervention capacity at each Children’s Centre

·         withdrawal of the proposal to establish Community Access Points in order to focus resources on designated Children’s Centres

Supporting documents: