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Shropshire Council warned they are isolating rural communities with reorganisation of children's centres

By Keri Trigg | Bishop's Castle | News | Published:

The planned reorganisation of a council-run family service has come under fire for hitting rural communities.

Shropshire Council

Sure Start children's centres are being targeted as part of cuts at Shropshire Council, which is planning to remove permanent bases in a bid to save £875,000.

The council claims a new Early Help service, operating from six hubs, would better centralise services as well as meeting savings targets.

Under the proposals, most face-to-face work would be done in family homes or public places like cafes, rather than in buildings run by the council.

Isolation

But Bishop's Castle councillor Jonny Keeley said the new model had not been designed with rural communities in mind and would lead to isolation among new parents.

He and Councillor Nigel Hartin, who represents Clun, met with concerned parents and Bishop's Castle Sure Start staff at the Crowgate Centre, where the current service operates from.

Speaking after the meeting, Councillor Keeley said: "We are all on the same page. We feel that even though the new proposal has good intentions, it does not quite represent the rural areas.

"If we have got trained individuals spending half of their time driving rather than caring, that is a waste of time."

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Councillor Keeley said home visits would "promote the isolation that new parents often suffer from", and take away the security and comfort of meeting other families in a group setting.

"People talk to each other and get advice from each other when they meet in one place. The space they are in now is considered by the parents to be a safe place, it would not be the same if they were somewhere public," he said.

"I understand why the council is having to make these efficiencies, but we need to be considered as the hub that we are in south west Shropshire. The proposals talk about six hubs. Bishop's Castle should be one of those six, and if not there should be seven."

Consultation

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Another worry raised at the meeting by the child centre staff was the uncertainty the reorganisation would cast on the other services that operate from the Crowgate Centre, which would struggle to meet the building's running costs without the council funding.

A six-week consultation into the proposals closed last week, and will be fed back to cabinet in May when members will be asked to approve the new model.

Councillor Nick Bardsley, cabinet member for children's services, thanked everyone who shared their views during the consultation.

He said: "We're unable to say much more at this stage but it's important to reiterate that we need to make changes so we can support the families who need it the most and build a service that is fit for the future.

"Our aim is to support families earlier, and to give families the tools to help them solve their own problems and be more resilient in the future. This will ensure we provide an even better service for the families of Shropshire."

Keri Trigg

By Keri Trigg
Reporter - @KeriTrigg_Star

Reporter for the Shropshire Star and Shrewsbury Chronicle based in Shrewsbury.

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