Children’s services may well continue to operate out of Whitehill and Bordon despite the upcoming “closure” of the Chase Children’s Centre, according to town, district and county councillor Adam Carew.
Hampshire County Council has decided to go ahead with plans to develop a new family-support service, which will see the withdrawal of services from the Chase Children’s Centre in Budds Lane, Bordon.
This “modernisation” will save £8.5million and will see children’s centres, early help hubs and youth-support budgets rolled into a single service.
Services will no longer be provided from the Chase Children’s Centre or from the Heath centre in Petersfield, leaving Alton’s Bushy Leaze Alton as the family-support service “hub” for the district – one of 11 across the county.
However the Chase, as a venue, is set to be retained for community use, but there is currently no clear picture of exactly what will be provided there.
The centre closures are in response to an upcoming funding shortfall of £98m, which must be saved by April 2017, putting the county council under unprecedented pressure to reduce spending.
Having criticised the plans, which will mean Whitehill and Bordon families travelling to Alton for the services – said to be neither “realistic or reasonable” – Mr Carew told the Bordon Herald that the door remained open for possible children’s services in the town.
“I said last week that although the new family hub would be in Alton, nothing has been decided about the future of the Chase Children’s Centre building,” he said. “I also stated that I had met with councillor (Keith) Mans (cabinet member for children’s services) and his lead officer and suggested that, given our deprivation, public-transport issues and continuing Ministry of Defence families’ presence – not to mention our Healthy New Town and Green Town status – that the county council examined new ways of centre management and service provision, perhaps involving Bordon Infant and Junior schools and, or, Home-Start WeyWater.
“Although the new combined district hub for Family Support in East Hampshire is to be based at Bushy Leaze in Alton, I have been in further conversations with county council this week.
“It is clearly recognised by the children’s services department that not all families from Whitehill and Bordon will find it easy to get to Alton.
“Although I am keen not to raise expectations until this has been fully discussed and formally signed off, I can say now that there is a clear understanding that family-support services will still need to operate in Whitehill and Bordon.
“These services may continue to be offered at the Chase Children’s Centre or possibly from another venue, such as an existing community centre.
“The Chase Children’s Centre building is likely to be handed over to the school when the Bordon Infant and Junior (school site) expands.
“Negotiations will be taking place shortly to establish whether the school would be willing to continue to provide space for family support services and, or, other community services, such as health and HomeStart, and whether it will be possible to continue delivering these from Chase Children’s Centre.
“I want to emphasise that nothing has been formally agreed as yet and the county council is at the very beginning of these discussions but this is a very positive piece of news. If family-support services can still be provided from the Chase Children’s Centre, or through another venue in our town, then this is extremely welcome. Having spoken to them at length, I know Mr Mans and his children’s services team are doing everything they can to reach a positive outcome for Whitehill and Bordon.”
Children’s centres work with families and children aged up to four years to help support a child’s development and readiness for school. The centres also provide advice on parenting, healthy lifestyles, employment and training.