A recent survey of Children’s Centre managers carried out by the Daycare Trust and 4Children, a national charity for children and families, found that in the next 12 months: 250 centres (7 per cent) will close or are expected to close, affecting an estimated 60,000 families. Up to 2,000 (56 per cent) will provide a reduced service. Up to 3,100 (86 per cent of centres ) will have a decreased budget. But what does this mean for the four boroughs?
Locally, the effect of the cuts on Sure Start and Children’s Centres has been a major issue in each of the budgets, with residents seeking rapid clarification of the situation in their borough.
Lewisham Council have been the clearest about their intentions for cuts in child care. They are currently proposing to increase costs for Early Childhood Centres – from £175 per week to between £205 and £250 per week, an increase of between 17 per cent and 43 per cent.
There will also be a 20 per cent reduction in the budgets of Sure Start Children Centres across the borough, which started to be implemented last month. This will also mean the removal of up to 100 jobs. The budget report from the Council said that: “The key objective to the proposal is that Lewisham stops being a direct provider of childcare”. The Amersham Early Years Centre will also be closed in August 2011 and the St. James Family Learning Centre closed on March 31.
Hackney and Tower Hamlets are facing cuts to services of £100 per child or more, but Tower Hamlets council will not be closing any of its 85 Sure Start locations. A spokeswoman said: “We can confirm that none of these venues will be closing or facing a reduction in opening hours.
“Savings will come, in the main, from streamlining the management of centres so we can continue to provide our excellent services for local families.”
Hackney council said: “We have made it public that no libraries or children centres will be affected by cuts in 2011, either with closures or changes to opening hours.”
Croydon council say they believe in the long-term savings of early intervention with children “preventing the need for later, more costly interventions.
“We are not at present seeking closure of any children’s centres but we will want them to provide a service to parents as well as providing targeted support for the more vulnerable families in their local areas.”
While many of the changes to each of the council’s provisions were set down in their budgets, it will be another couple of months before the full effect of any cuts can be appreciated.
Child Tax Credits
Another national change that will affect all the boroughs is a reduction in help in paying childcare costs from the government.
The amount a parent can claim to help with childcare drops from 80 per cent to 70 per cent from 6 April 2011. The most a parent can claim for each week is £175 for one child and £300 for two or more children.
This means that the maximum help parents can get through tax credits for childcare will be: £122.50 a week for one child and £210 a week for two or more children.
Two illustrative examples from Lewisham and Croydon are set out below. In the example from Lewisham, the mother does not receive Child Tax Credits so will not be affected by the 10 per cent reduction. However the rise in childcare costs in Lewisham will mean a substantial change in what she pays. Croydon Council are not raising childcare prices, but the father in the example will be affected by the reduction in Child Tax Credits.
Below is a video of a Lewisham mother, who describes the effect of the closure of the St. James Family Learning Centre on her family:
Additional Reporting and Graphics: Germaine Arnold
Video: Chris Stevenson