Northamptonshire parents 'to use libraries for child advice'

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Parents may have to get advice from libraries if 50 children's centres stop offering general help under new plans.

The proposals to restructure the work of Northamptonshire's children's centres would see them focus on families with the greatest need.

Help in libraries would be provided by advisers who currently give information on jobs and other council services.

The plans were drawn up after a number of critical Ofsted inspections and go to the council's cabinet on Tuesday.

Safeguarding concerns

There are no plans to close any of the centres, but opening hours may change depending on who wins the tenders to run them.

Of 29 Ofsted inspections of the county's children's centres, only 11 were rated as "good" or above.

A report to the council says a consultation process found that some parents welcomed raising the profile of children's services through the use of libraries.

But others expressed concerns that "libraries aren't the right environment for young family activities (including safeguarding concerns relating to full public access and confidentiality issues)", and some raised worries about accessibility and location.

The report adds that people in Corby were "happy with the current provision and did not wish to see a significant change".

Catherine Boardman, the Conservative-controlled council's cabinet member for children and education, said: "Our libraries already do a great deal of work that impacts positively on children.

"The proposals would see them build on those excellent services to further support children and families in their own communities.

"Meanwhile, our children's centres would then be able to really focus on the early help and prevention services that will make all the difference to families experiencing the onset of challenges or problems."

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