A detailed formula was agreed which allocates £1m worth of cuts across all Birmingham’s Children’s Centre’s by a sliding scale, where cuts are made to Centre provision in proportion to levels of deprivation in the locality served. (1)
The technical approach avoids closing named Children’s Centres with the political problems that this would create, by instead instituting a multitude of cuts across the whole service.
It is claimed the cuts
will ensure that there is no impact in the most deprived areas and enable universal services across the core purpose to continue to be delivered in all localities which are accessible within each community.
Cuts of up to 12.5% will be made to Centre’s in wards regarded as the least deprived. There are though significant numbers of children living in deprivation in the city that do not live in the most deprived wards.
The Report also identifies the alignment of Children’s Centre services within local Early-help pathway services that is currently under development, which moves Children’s Centres away from a universal to a more targeted service.
A revolt in the Labour Group in November reduced the original proposed cut to the City’s Children’s Centres from £3m to £1m; this was achieved by displacing £2m worth on to Early Years services.
The Council is legally mandated to promote and develop quality child care for children living in areas of high deprivation and is funded to do this through the Childcare Sustainability Budget. Cuts are being made in the budget used to financially support child care providers in areas of high deprivation.
The Cabinet Report confirms large cuts to training for child care workers and childminders funded through the sustainability grant. Providing quality child care to young children requires well trained child care workers, but the report claims that this £350k cut in training will have minimal impact.
These claims that there would be a minimum impact as a result of these cuts should have been scrutinised and challenged at the Cabinet meeting.
Early Years services do not have the same visibility as the local Children’s Centres but provide vital services to develop child care for Birmingham’s young children.
Labour’s Cabinet is taking a technical and managerial approach to the cuts to avoid political conflict and to hide their impact this budget year. It is a fallacy that the chosen cuts are ‘protecting the most vulnerable’.