Taunton mum worried over children's centre contracts change

Rachel Coutts with baby Evan.

Rachel Coutts with baby Evan.

First published in News
Last updated
Somerset County Gazette: Photograph of the Author by

A MOTHER fears changes to services at a children’s centre in Taunton could threaten its future.

Rachel Coutts, 41, of Taunton, uses Fledglings Children’s Centre to run mother-and-toddler groups with her 22-month-old son, Evan.

Barnados currently manage the facility but their contract expires on March 31 when the services will be taken over by Somerset County Council.

The centre is one of 11 across the county which are affected as current providers Barnados, Brookside Acad-emy, The Children’s Society and Action for Children were unable to agree a one-year extension to their contract.

Contracts will also expire at children’s centres in Wiveliscombe and Bishops Lydeard, Brook House in Norton Fitzwarren and The Levels in Langport.

The Children's Society, who look after children's centres in Wiveliscombe and Bishops Lydeard say the contract offer from the council was unfeasable as it was at a third of the funding of previous years.

A spokesperson said: "These conditions made it impossible for us to extend the contract."

Rachel said: “We are worried – the council told us some of the centres are closing because they are not being well run and they can run them more efficiently but Fledglings is well run.

“There is a lot of feeling about why touch a centre that is performing well and the consultations have all been left a bit late ... they must have known this would happen.”

Somerset County Council stressed it would provide the same services and would work closely with families to avoid any disruption.

These changes are separate to the ongoing talks to ‘de-designate’ 18 of the county’s 41 children's centres as part of a cost-cutting measure.

Rachel said she has run a mother-and-toddler group for around a year and is concerned it could end once the contracts are switched over to the council.

She said: “We just want to make sure we can still run the sessions and I can’t be confident of them (the council) coming in without disruption.

“With all the talks about saving money I worry they will use the centre as a money-making exercise at the expense of the children’s services.”

The county council say staff currently employed at the centres will have the option to transfer and work for the council.

A spokesman added: “The only change is that the centres will be managed by the council rather than the other organisations.

“If in due course any changes to these children’s centre services are proposed, as part of the council’s restructuring of the services into five areas, we will carry out appropriate consultations.”

  •  CONCERNS about the future of children’s centres will be discussed at a county council scrutiny committee meeting, in the Taunton Conference Centre auditorium at Somerset College to-morrow (Friday) at 9.30am.

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