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Working together for SureStart

Article By: Sandwell Council

The council and the community have united in Sandwell to keep Sure Start children's centres open.

Parents lobbying against retendering of children's centre contracts today met Sandwell's Cabinet member for children & families.

Cllr Bob Badham was able to reassure them that Sandwell would be keeping open all of the borough's 21 children's centres.

He said: "I am very impressed with the commitment people are showing to the centre and I'm delighted they are going to be working with us.

"In Sandwell, unlike many authorities, we are determined to keep all our children's centres open and it is good to know that we have the support of parents and the community.

"I have assured them that they will continue to be involved in the management and the council will continue to monitor to ensure a good service."

Chair of Smethwick Sure Start Mr Aynols Reid, said: "Cllr Badham has given us some reassurances over management arrangements and we are looking forward to working with the council." The government wants to see more diversity in this provision and local authorities are inviting tenders from alternative operators.

All contracts for operation of centres were due to expire on 31 March 2011 but have been extended to 31 December 2011.

A range of different agencies - including the local authority, schools and voluntary sector organisations - currently operate centres.

The tender process for agencies to run the centres will begin in the next couple of months, with new contracts running from January 2012.

Although this may result in some changes to who runs the centres, none will close and the council will continue to monitor to ensure the same high standards of performance.

Cllr Bob Badham said: "Some parents have understandably expressed some concern that the impending changes will have a negative affect on the centres, but they can be reassured that parents and the community will continue to be involved in managing the centres. "Parents have always been a key partner in running centres, and at Cape Hill for example, this has probably been one of the most successful examples of strong partnership working in the borough."