Campaigners fear that 35 “vital” children’s centres across Bucks could be axed and replaced with nine hubs, if new proposals are given the green light.

Buckinghamshire County Council has proposed to introduce a new early help service, which will see nine teams of lead family workers working in community settings across the county.

The council said the teams will support families where they are, including in their homes, and in community and other settings, which bosses say could save the council £3.3 million.

They added the new model would provide the “best value for money” and the “best opportunity to improve outcomes and reduce demands on statutory services”.

But campaigners are worried that the nine “hubs” could mean that the 35 children’s centres which currently operate around Bucks could be closed.

Wycombe District Councillor Andrea Baughan said the centres were of a “great value to the community”.

She said: “The children’s centres are brilliant. I have volunteered at them and I think they do tremendous work.

“[The workers] are a great asset to the community. I appreciate the need to save money but they do a really good job.

“I think it is a vital service and it would be a real shame if they closed them down.

“They do provide an extremely valuable service and I hope that the decision isn’t made to cut the numbers of centres.”

Council bosses said feedback they received from children and families had “consistently” shown that the way they “currently do things is not the best approach to providing effective early help and support or building future resilience”, and that they were out to consult with the public with an “open mind” to be able to “find the best solutions”.

They added that this would “inevitably” mean changes and possible closure or “reconfiguration” of some current premises.

Health campaigner Ozma Hafiz said that ‘safe places’ like children’s centres were “key” in helping people access early help and support in order to “prevent issues escalating”.

She said: “Parents of young children know they can come to their local centre for support and someone will be there to give them information and sign post them to the right help.

“With the children’s centres, it is becoming clearer that the driver behind these decisions is a short-sighted financial one.

“Barriers in accessing help can amongst other things result in more expense later on. Stripping the community of vital assets is completely unacceptable.

“Children’s centres should remain open in their familiar, easily accessible locations.”

Echoing Ms Hafiz’ sentiments, another health campaigner, Linda Derrick, said: “I think it would be absolutely wrong to close down the children’s centres which are getting to children at a very early stage in their lives.”

A consultation has opened with people and organisations around Bucks being asked to complete a survey, available online and in Bucks libraries.

Warren Whyte, BCC's cabinet member for children’s services, said: “We know we need to make improvements so that families can access the right support at the right time. This includes help with things like parenting worries, behavioural issues with their children, money worries, relationship breakdowns and being out of work.

“We’re out to consult with an open mind and will welcome everyone’s views or opinions – so that together we can find the best solutions.

“It will inevitably mean changes and possibly closure or reconfiguration of some current premises – but also means making better use of other local community facilities.

“However, this is our opportunity to learn from national best practice, listen to what children and families are telling us they really want – and to get it right for families in Bucks.”

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