Sure Start centres reviewed

FOUR purpose-built Sure Start centre in St Helens are being reviewed by town hall bosses.

Centres in Billinge, Eccleston, Rainhill and Rainford are coming under scrutiny.

Council bosses insist there are “no plans at this stage” to close the units.

A council spokesman said: “At this stage there is no proposal to close any of the centres. All we are doing is consulting on the four centres in question. We’re simply trying to find out how many people use the centres and for what reasons.

“If there are any changes, everyone can rest assured that the services they currently enjoy will continue to be provided – albeit in a slightly different format.

“For example – it may be that it’s more convenient for some people to obtain health advice at the local GP’s surgery or health centre, while play sessions could be more effectively provided through community groups.”

Government spending cuts to council services are behind the current review, which will affect hundreds of children across St Helens.

Council chiefs have also drawn up a new ‘Early Intervention Service’ design to target help at those most in need.

The centres in the town’s more affluent wards have been picked for scrutiny in a bid to keep Sure Start running in deprived areas.

Councillor Eric Smith, cabinet member for Children, Young People and Learning Services, said: “The opinions of local residents are important. We want to hear about peoples’ experiences of accessing services in their local children’s centre.

“The views of the children themselves are also important – and we will be undertaking consultation with children and their carers as part of this exercise.”

Earlier this year, worried parents have slammed “short-sighted” cuts to St Helens’ Sure Start children’s centres.

The borough’s early intervention Sure Start programme had to be “reduced” because of a 23 per cent cut in grants from Westminster.

The local funding cut was sparked after the previous “ring-fencing” of national Sure Start cash was removed by central Government.