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Legal challenge on Bucks children's centres dismissed

Legal challenge on Bucks children's centres dismissed

Published by Charlotte Fisher at 11:30am 12th July 2019.

A legal challenge trying to save Buckinghamshire's children's centres has been dismissed.

A two-day judicial review took place last week (2nd-3rd July) into the County Council's plans to replace 35 children's centres with 16 family ones.

The plan was criticised by Save Bucks Children's Centres campaign and an anonymous mum launched a legal challenge.

The judge has now dismissed the judicial review following the hearing.

Children's Centre Legal Challenge Update
The campaign has been fighting BCC's decision for over two years

But, campaigners say they will keep on fighting.

James Betts, the public law expert at Irwin Mitchell’s Manchester office who is representing the campaigners, commented:

“We are naturally disappointed with the outcome of this Judicial Review and are currently discussing the options with our client including  an appeal against the decision.

“Our client brought this case as the children centres in Buckinghamshire have been invaluable to her and her family. 

"She remains of the view that the planned closures will have a major negative impact on her children and others families and young children across Buckinghamshire.

"We are aware that many families have found the current situation hugely distressing and it is important that their voices have been heard.”

BCC are pleased with the court's decision..

Childrens Centres protest
There were protests over the county council's original plans

The new Family Support Service, designed to improve the lives of children and families, will be launched in September the deicison from the High Court Judge, Mrs Justice Andrews DBE.

In handing down her decision to dismiss the claim for Judicial Review, Mrs Justice Andrews said she was satisfied that the consultation had been entirely fair and that

‘the Council carried out the Consultation before it made the Decision; it took the responses properly into account, and it complied with all its relevant statutory duties.'

The new Family Support Service has been carefully designed to provide better, more targeted support for vulnerable families, who face a range of issues or more complex challenges.

These families will have a team in place to support them to address all their needs – with the ultimate aim of helping them to overcome their problems leading to happier and healthier lives.

Universal support for families across Buckinghamshire will be provided at a network of 16 family centres which will offer a wider range of services and provide improved access through extending opening hours beyond what is currently available at many existing children’s centres.

The Council is committed to using the 19 former children’s centres for alternate provision from the autumn, which will be primarily for early years benefit and community use.

Before the new service starts, there will be a full programme of activities for local families throughout the summer at the existing network of children’s centres.

Warren Whyte, Buckinghamshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Children’s Services said:

“We are very pleased with the court’s decision to dismiss this judicial review.

"It is regrettable, however, that we have had to contest it at all, as this has been a very costly process – both financially and in terms of the time spent by our team in preparing for this hearing.

"These proceedings have caused anxiety for our staff and critically, could have shifted focus and energy away from the children and families who need our support.

“This has never been about withdrawing any services – quite the opposite; it’s about enhancing how we help families across Buckinghamshire with children of all ages.

"People who need extra support will be able to get it in a more targeted way under the new Family Support Service.

“The very reason we are making changes to our service is to make sure families and children in greatest need of help in Buckinghamshire get that help sooner.

"By providing  those families the right support at the right time, as well as maintaining a universal offer for everyone at 16 family centres, we can work to prevent families’ issues escalating, by offering help before their problems get worse.”

 

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