East Sussex children’s centres to be ‘de-designated’ and placed at risk of closure

A number of children's centres in East Sussex could close if other providers do not emerge to take them over from the county council
A number of children's centres in East Sussex could close if other providers do not emerge to take them over from the county council

A number of children’s centres across East Sussex are set to be ‘de-designated’ and placed at risk of closure as the county council looks to make millions of pounds of savings.

Under the revised early years strategy, 14 locations will no longer be designated as children’s centres.

East Sussex County council says it will work with partners to identify an alternative provider of early years or education services to take over ten of the centres.

These are: High Weald, Seaford, Chailey, Ringmer, Battle, West St Leonards, Old Town (Eastbourne), Crowborough, Rye and Egerton Park.

If no proposals are approved by January, then these centres will close in April 2020.

Rooms at three centres based in externally owned buildings - Heathfield, Newhaven and at The Bridge in Hastings – will remain available for hire to provide services as needed, while Hampden Park children’s centre will close with services moved to Shinewater children’s centre.

If approved, the strategy would save £2.6 million while the council would continue to spend £4.4 million on early years services a year.

The draft strategy will be considered by Sylvia Tidy, lead member for children and families at a meeting on Monday October 7.

Stuart Gallimore, director of children’s services at East Sussex County Council, said: “The proposals we are putting forward will help us target support to more than 2,100 families at risk of crisis each year, and around 500 vulnerable young people, and continue to offer support to all families of pre-school children.

“The draft strategy was drawn up following an extensive review of how we deliver services. We are grateful to all of those who have given feedback during the consultation period, which has helped us finalise proposals to concentrate on services for the most vulnerable.”

The county council would no longer run two nurseries in Bexhill but would work with providers to ensure, where reasonably practicable, that there are sufficient nursery places in the area, as it does across the rest of the county.

While the council does not have a duty to operate childcare facilities, it will continue to run both Cygnets and Rainbow nurseries until September 2020 to provide increased certainty and continuity for families.

As well as health visiting services for pre-school children, all families in East Sussex would continue to have access to the school health service, the family information service and improved online advice and information about the services offered by the county council.

Additional services would be maintained where externally funded support is available and a further 200 families will be supported through the troubled family programme.

As well as targeted support, the strategy could also provide open access drop-in facilities, the details of which are currently being discussed with partners.