Melton Council has agreed a temporary move to use lesser skilled customer service advisors at three of the town’s children’s centres as the impact of county council funding cuts continues to be felt.
More skilled advisors, able to deal with more complex customer queries, will remain instead at Melton Council’s Parkside offices.
A drop-in ‘surgery style’ service will continue to be operated by advisors at the Fairmead Children’s Centre for two half-days a week.
A similar drop-in service is now to be trialled at the Edge Children’s Centre on Dalby Road while lesser qualified staff will deliver a ‘reception’ service at the Cove Children’s Centre on Sysonby Street.
Sarah-Jane O’Connor, Melton Council’s HR and communications manager, said: “This is not saying we’re closing the centres. It’s primarily about the level of customer service resource and the advisors we have at the centres.”
The latest changes come after Leicestershire County Council announced that, following a review of children and young people services, it would be withdrawing its £47,000 contribution for a reception service at the centres. County Hall has agreed a £24,000 payment for 2015/16 but this will be the last.
A user survey carried out by Melton Council showed a drop in footfall (appointments) at the children’s centres - since the county council reduced activities - and that customer queries were more routine (able to be dealt with by lesser skilled advisers.)
Meanwhile people can now access support and do transactions at the Me and My Learning Centre - at Phoenix House on Nottingham Road.
Talks are also being held with the constituted Family Voices group - made up of parents and carers who use the centres - about the possibility of them having a presence at the Fairmead Children’s Centre and providing activities.
County and borough councillor Alan Pearson, a big supporter of the volunteer-driven Family Voices group, said: “If we can manage this sensitive transition stage we have talented people in Melton who can take the pressure off and provide services.”
Borough councillor for Melton’s Egerton ward, which includes the Cove, is Tina Culley. She said: “A lot of my more senior residents like the opportunity to pop into the Cove to access information. I think it’s important to still have some customer services provision there for them.”
A further report on the future of children’s centres is to be provided in the autumn.
For more on Family Voices visit http://surestart-melton.co.uk/Family-Voices.php