Somerset Sure Start children's centres earmarked for closure

Image caption,
The council is considering taking over the running of health visitors and school nurses from the NHS

Two-thirds of Somerset's children's centres may close under plans being considered by councillors next week.

Somerset County Council is proposing replacing its 24 Sure Start centres with eight "family centres" to co-ordinate work in the surrounding areas.

The remaining 16 buildings would host early childhood services such as nursery places.

The review involves the creation of a new Family Support Service, which would incorporate some child health services.

Children and families councillor Frances Nicholson said it was a "misconception that changing the status of the [children's centre] buildings would mean a reduction in services".

School nurses

The authority said nurseries currently operating from children's centre buildings would continue to operate and, in some areas, be expanded.

But support such as health visitor services would operate from community buildings and in people's homes.

Councillors will also consider whether the county should take over the running of public health nursing services - such as health visitors and school nurses - from Somerset Partnership NHS Trust.

If agreed, staff employed by the trust would transfer to the new council-run Family Support Service.

The plans will be discussed by the Children and Families Scrutiny Committee on Friday 26 January.

A decision on whether to continue with the proposals will be made by the county's cabinet on 12 February.

Children's centres are places where parents with young children can go for help with things like breastfeeding, budgeting, making healthy choices for their family and postnatal depression.

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