Children’s centres merge under costs savings plan

THE CHILDREN’s Centre at Hailsham’s Dunbar Drive will merge with Hailsham East Children’s Centre under plans by the county authority to save around £130,000.

The Dunbar Drive building in Hailsham will continue to be used by East Sussex County Council as a venue for Children’s Centre services, as a social care resource Centre and to support children in care.

Children’s Centre services would continue on the Dunbar Drive site and the Diplocks Community Centre which is in a ‘far more appropriate location’, said County.

County’s Cabinet report (July 3) said that out of 35 Centres the management of four pairs will be merged including Hailsham, saving £130,000 - helped by not recruiting extra staff for the merged Centres and with a premises costs saving of £25,000.

Cllr Nick Bennett said: “All families who currently receive services from our Children’s Centres will continue to do so, and the vast majority of centres will not be affected in any way by these proposals.”

The other merged Centres are: West Rise Centre with Shinewater Centre in Eastbourne; Robertsbridge centre with Battle and Pebsham with Sidley.

A public consultation on the Hailsham plans produced 66 responses from people living in the Dunbar Drive and Hailsham East area. The July 3 report said respondents were under the impression all services would take place at Hailsham East Centre post-merger.

The report noted: “Many said that they would find the extra distance inconvenient or difficult to overcome. 19 respondents mentioned the fact that Hailsham East was further away from their home.

“Others were unhappy because they appreciated what they saw as the smaller, calmer atmosphere of Dunbar Drive to the larger, noisier groups and activities at Hailsham East Centre. There was a concern that these groups, which were already regarded as busy, would become too crowded.”

Some 20 consultees were very anxious, admitted the council, about the possible closure of the Oaks After School Club at Dunbar Drive. The report said that club staff feared the club may close unless they continue to use the Centre or find an alternative venue.

“It was agreed that further conversations would take place to either support Oaks to find an alternative venue or to agree continued accommodation within the Children’s Centre in partnership with other users including social care.”