When It Happens Panel Get involved: send your photos, videos, news & views by texting 'OXFORD NEWS' to 80360 or email
COUNCIL CUTS: Hubs for deprived children set to shut after two years
9:00am Wednesday 16th October 2013 in News
CENTRES for deprived children that opened just two years could soon be closed, the Oxford Mail can reveal.
Oxfordshire County Council has told staff it is proposing to close four of its seven early intervention hubs, leaving only ones in Oxford, Didcot and Banbury.
This would see the services – which tackle youth issues like substance abuse, unemployment and academic under-achievement – shut in Abingdon, Bicester, Witney and either East Oxford or Littlemore.
The seven hubs were set up in 2011 to replace the county’s youth centre network after funding came to an end for 13 youth centres around the county. The centres affected were kept open with funding from other sources.
Now the Mail understands that four hubs – which cater for children from birth to age 19 – could be axed along with 37 out of 44 children’s centres, as reported in the Mail on Saturday.
The closure plan was revealed in a presentation to staff by director of children’s services Jim Leivers, including a map of three “remaining” hubs. The presentation said there would be “significant reductions in provision” and the council will “support but no longer be a provider of universal services” and will focus on those in “greatest need”.
It said it would only do what was required “by legislation, regulation or policy” and “seek to protect the reputation of the council”. More mobile working, particularly in rural areas, would be needed, along with “improved linkages” with social workers the presentation was told.
Council spokesman Owen Morton said the proposal was “illustrative”.
He added: “It was not meant as a definitive statement of the future position.”
Plans will be announced in December and decisions taken in February, to take effect after April 1. No closure dates have been given.
From their opening in September 2011 to this August, the centres have seen 4,852 young people, including 1,445 at the Oxford hubs, and provided 23,375 activity sessions.
The moves comes after the council was last month told by ministers it has to save a further £61m from 2014 to 2018 on top of £74m already planned and £127m being made from 2010 to this year.
Labour group leader Liz Brighouse said: “I am concerned about all of the proposals. None of them are tenable.
“But what will happen if the savings are not found – that the county goes bankrupt?”
In a letter to Prime Minister and Witney MP David Cameron, Unite union officer Chris Gray said the hubs “were heralded as a new way of providing targeted care to the most vulnerable young people” in 2011.
He added: “Your policies are clearly failing our young people. We are urging you to take immediate action to stop councils slashing youth service provision.”
Mr Gray told Mr Cameron: “This is a scandal that we won’t let you ignore.”