Major overhaul of Luton children’s centres in the pipeline

Luton Town Hall
Luton Town Hall

Children’s centres in Luton could be in line for a radical overhaul as the council seeks to make savings of £1m.

It is the latest shift after 23 children’s centres were re-classified in 2012, with seven main “hubs” identified and the other 16 centres allocated as “satellites”.

Now, it is proposed to reduce these seven hubs further down to four. The current hubs are:

> Redgrave Children’s Centre, Redgrave Gardens, Luton

> Meadows Children’s Centre, Pastures Way, Luton

> Hatters Children’s Centre, Dallow Primary School, Luton

> Community Link Children’s Centre, Strangers Way, Luton

> ABC Children’s Centre , Chapel Street, Luton

> Building Blocks Children’s Centre , Beech Hill Primary School, Luton

> East Luton Children’s Centre, Yeovil Road, Luton

A report prepared by Luton Borough Council’s children’s services director Jo Fisher states: “We are proposing to stop calling buildings children’s centres and instead put in place four Flying Start children’s centre neighbourhoods or hubs, called North, Central, South and West.”

The first phase of the proposals would focus on services for children under five, integrating them with the government’s Flying Start programme.

Luton Borough Council claims this would provide a consistent “neighbourhood model”.

Currently 90 children’s centre staff work in Luton, at the equivalent of 64 full-time positions. The report goes on: “It is considered that this current level of staff number is the minimum to deliver a safe and good quality service in Luton.”

The plans were discussed at a meeting of LBC’s Children’s Services Review Group last week. Committee chairman Cllr Meryl Dollings said that although there was support for the proposals, finer details including what becomes of the three unused hubs and their satellite centres, had yet to be decided. She said: “The detail was not entirely there and they are still clearly working on some elements of it.”

Asked about the efficiency of the proposed new service, Cllr Dolling said: “The aim is to provide consistency across the town, also for health services and social services generally to work together collectively. We are scrutinising the proposals and the committee felt that there were enough safeguards there.

“As a scrutinising committee, it will be our job to look at that going forward but in principle, the findings are that it should be an improvement.”

80 of the current 90 children’s centre staff working in Luton are employed by LBC. The rest work for a voluntary organisation whose services will no longer be required under the proposed layout.

Cllr Dolling added: “I did ask about the voluntary sector organisation. Again, the council is trying to be sensitive and give it time to find other income streams.”

The plans will considered at a meeting of the council’s executive this month. If approved, a delivery plan will be worked out over the next two months with the new model expected to be in place by the summer of 2017.