Funding for Harrogate Children’s centres cut by 20 per cent

Bilton Children's centre (s)
Bilton Children's centre (s)

Children‘s centres in North Yorkshire have been forced to cope with a 20 per cent reduction in budget cuts over the past four years.

New figures, obtained from a Freedom of Information request, revealed North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC) allocated £8.29m to their 37 centres for the year 2011/12.

However, funding dropped dramatically in 2012/13 and has continued to fall every year since culminating in the centres receiving £6.59m in 2014/15.

Despite the reduction in funding, NYCC’s principle officer for integrated services, Marc Mason, insisted that the impact on centres had been a positive one.

He said: “Since the majority of our cuts four years ago, the number of families using the service has increased significantly, probably by about 50 per cent.

“It just goes to show it’s not the amount of money you have but how you use it. We have been working with the local community to have a more joined up service.

“We realised if we know more of the families living in the community then we can target them more easily. The managers and staff at the centres have also become a lot more effective and efficient.

“We try to help families in need and give them the skills to get on with their lives. We don’t want families needing constant support. Our success is them coming to us for a bit, then going and getting on with their lives.”

Mr Mason explained that, to cope with funding cuts, children centres have focussed on preventative measures and integrating their services to reach more people.

Over the last four years, children centres in Harrogate Bilton, Harrogate West and Harrogate Town have all seen their funding reduced dramatically.

The children’s centre in Saltergate has had their funding reduced by 14 per cent while the Willow Tree base has had their budget cut by 28 per cent.

Harrogate Bilton Children’s Centre has seen their funding reduced by 43 per cent in just four years and Fiona Corby, Service Leader at the centre, admitted they have had to ‘evolve’ to cope with the cuts.

She said: “Yes, we have had a reduction in our budget but we know how to be effective and to provide what works and what families .

“Some of the most popular things are things like stay and play. Parents can come along once or twice a week and they know they can safely come and have access to staff.

“These centres are still vitally important and we believe the research that we get in early with families and give them support it helps them for the long term.

“We are aware we can’t do everything for families but we are just enabling them to do it for themselves. Things like parenting courses are perfect for a lot of families.

“We know we don’t have a magic wand and there’s more to do. We are going through austerity measures and it’s our job as managers to be creative and think how we can deliver good service with less money.”