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Hampshire County Council is to extend its current consultation on the re-organisation of Children's Centres for one month to give more parents and community representatives the chance to get involved in shaping future delivery.
Hampshire County Council's Executive Lead Member for Children's Services, Councillor Roy Perry, said: "I've asked officers to extend the consultation on our proposals to restructure the management of Children's Centres across the county so that we can do more work directly with parents and carers so they can make a fuller contribution. The County Council Leader has agreed to this.
"I met with campaigners on Friday and it was a positive meeting at which they were able to discuss their concerns. They suggested the consultation did not make clear the impact of the proposals upon staffing and services. I explained that the purpose of the consultation is to listen to the views of families who use the centres and to maintain the very best level of services the County Council can afford.
"In the County Council we are as proud as anyone of the network of Children's Centres we have created across the County and we value the work they do. We wish that we did not have to make economies. The cuts to funding facing children's services and children centres in particular, were unavoidable and decisions need to be made in order to make the necessary savings.
"Our proposals are designed to make the running of the centres more cost efficient while at the same time ensure that services are closely targeted at those children and families most in need of support. This is in line with Government guidance on the purpose of Children's Centres.
"The consultation is a genuinely open process to ask parents, staff and service providers their views. I am very keen to learn if there are other ways we can achieve the scale of economies necessary but I cannot escape the economic pressures we face.
"I do understand the feelings of parents and I applaud their passion for the high quality services and support they get from our centres. This is why I want to work with them to move forward with these proposals."
The proposals are to move from the existing model of 81 individually managed centres to a total of 53 centres, achieved through the merger of some centres. Streamlining the management structures while maintaining delivery of services to children and families.
Councillor Perry said: "There appears to have been misunderstanding that we are to close a large number of centres but in the vast majority of cases these will be mergers of management and services and will not involve the closure of sites or buildings. Families will see little change to the way in which they access services through the centres.
"I do accept that the consultation documents could have been clearer in some respects, but our centre staff were briefed to support parents through the consultation process and answer any queries they had. We have already had a number of responses which indicate people do recognise the need for change but I want to make sure we have had enough time for families to contribute their views which is why we are extending the consultation for one month."