DOZENS of children’s centres could be either closed or run with reduced hours as part of a review of services.
Essex County Council has launched a public consultation on its centres, which proposes retaining only 12 of the 37 main sites currently open.
The proposals will see children’s centres renamed as “family hubs”, with only one remaining each of the county’s 12 districts opening for 50 hours per week.
The council claims the hub will "co-ordinate all support and services for families with children from pregnancy up to the age of 19”.
Some existing children’s centres will run reduced hours as delivery sites, while outreach sites providing information and guidance will be set up at libraries.
The consultation document suggests there will be 17 delivery sites and 19 outreach sites.
Dick Madden, Tory councillor responsible for children and adults, has justified the changes by stating it will allow the council to offer “a wider range of services”.
He said: “We can meet the needs more people, from expectant mothers to babies and toddlers, right through to young adults.
“This means re-thinking the way we have been doing things and includes working more closely with families and communities.”
********* CAMPAIGNING councillors have reacted angrily to moves to close children's centres in Colchester.
Nine children's centres in north Essex could be reduced to two under sweeping measures proposed by Essex County Council.
The council is looking to create just two family hubs in the area - one in Greenstead and one in Jaywick.
The remaining centres in north Essex will either be closed or will become what have been called family hub delivery sites or be offered for alternative child care.
The council is also suggesting the seven delivery sites in the area are reduced to four.
To mitigate the closures, the council is looking to create two family hub outreach sites and make four additional childcare locations.
But former Colchester mayor Mike Hogg described the prospect of closing the St Anne's and Castle Children's Centre, which is based at the Oak Tree Centre in Harwich Road, Colchester, as horrendous.
Mr Hogg, who is chairman of the trust which runs the Oak Tree Centre, said: "It would be absolutely horrendous if it closed.
"The children's centre makes an enormous contribution and to close it would be a retrograde step.
"The atmosphere there is great and there is so much going on.
"We have invested an enormous amount of time and money into the facilities which are for everyone but particularly young people.
"It is excellent value for money."
He added: "We only found out about this by word of mouth. It is disgraceful.
"It is supposed to be a caring council but if they cared, they would have got in touch and discussed a way forward."
Mr Hogg said anyone who wanted to get in touch with him could do so via firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lesley Scott-Boutell , who is chairman of the locality board for Little Hands Children’s Centre in Stanway, said both she and her daughter, Jessica, who is a Stanway councillor, were deeply concerned about the proposal to close the centre.
She said: “We are deeply concerned to read about the proposals contained in the document and worry about the long term implications. .
“As chair of the locality board, I witness first hand the work which goes on behind the scenes by the Little Hands team in supporting our local families.
“Little Hands is a new and purpose-built building designed to deliver what our community needs and to lose it would be criminal.
“Little Hands was designated as a Children's Centre hub only last year and if lost the west of Colchester will be under-supported.
“We urge residents to respond to this consultation and let Essex County Council know what the impact of their proposals will have on their and their families lives.”
******** A family hub will open for 50 hours a week to deliver a range of support services and activities.
The council says the hub will co-ordinate all the support and services for families with children from pregnancy to the age of 19.
A family hub delivery site will offer sevices for 20 to 30 hours a weekand will be places where different people from a range of organisations who support children and families already.
Family hub outreach sites will provide information, advice and guidance. They might be at a library.
***** CONSULTATION into the changes to children's centres will run until April 10.
To comment, go to http://surveys.essexinsight.org.uk/childrenscentresconsultation2016 .
Drop-in sessions will also be held at the Berechurch Children's Centre in The Ormiston Centre, School Road, Colchester, on March 11 from 9.30am to 11.30am and at Clacton Library in Station Road on March 22 from 6.30pm to 8.30pm.
**** The list and how the centres may change
* Beehive Children's Centre, Queen Boudicca Primary School Colchester, main site open 50 hours a week, new childcare opportunity;
* Berechurch Children's Centre, Ormiston Centre Colchester., main site open 50 hours a week, could become family hub delivery site;
* Birch and Rural Children's Centre,Birch Primary School, delivery site open five hours a week, could be closed;
* Colne Children's Centre, Brightlingsea High Street, delivery site open 20 hours a week could be closed;
* Discovery Children's Centre, Clairmont Road, Colchester, delivery site open 15 hours a week could be closed;
* Greenstead Children's Centre, Hawthorn Avenue, Colchester, main site open 50 hours a week could become Colchester's only family hub;
* Little Hands Children's Centre, Stanway Fiveways Primary School, main site open 50 hours a week could become additional childcare opportunity;
* New Town Children's Centre, St Stephen's church centre, Canterbury Road, Colchester, delivery site open 20 hours a week could be closed;
* Shrub End Children's Centre, Shrub End, Colchester, main site open 50 hours a week could become a family hub outreach site within Prettygate library;
* St Anne's and Castle Children's Centre, Harwich Road, Colchester, delivery site open 25 hours a week could be closed.