Kingston Council (RBK) has defended its decision to "remodel" support services at four children's centres in the borough.

On Friday, March 22, RBK announced that children's centre services at four centres in the borough—Norbiton, Suurbiton, North Kingston and New Malden, would be "remodelled" and effectively cease operating out of those centres.

Of the four affected centres, current services at Norbiton and Surbiton will move to be run from "local outreach sites", while as yet unpublicised "remodelling" of services at the New Malden and North Kingston children’s centres is scheduled for April 2020, RBK said.

Chessington, Kingston Town, Old Malden and Tolworth children’s centres will continue to provide the same services.

The proposals were well-publicized ahead of the announcement, with many in the borough expression concern at what has been dubbed a de-facto closure of the centres.

RBK have defended the decision and say that it was taken following a lengthy public consultation process, which ran from December 13, 2018-February 1, 2019.

Councillor Diane White, portfolio holder for children's services (including education), said:

"Following our consultation, children centre services in Norbiton and Surbiton will be run from established community hubs (Surbiton Nursery will not be directly affected), while in North Kingston and New Malden, we want to work with local communities to make sure they have their say in how and where these services are delivered.

"We are also strengthening outreach to support our families, focusing on our most vulnerable residents. Other councils have successfully adopted this approach and have seen positive results."

Residents in the borough have expressed their concerns regarding the proposals.

Speaking to the Surrey Comet in January, one former children's centre employer said she left her job at the Chessington centre in December over fears of what another "restructuring" would entail.

Jayne McTamney, 49, said: "The proposed changes are stretching staff to the point where there won’t be staff in centres as there have been.

"If you are going to provide outreach sessions you are not paying for a hub building. I do not think it would be half as valuable."

Meanwhile, a parent who uses the Chessington children's centre started an online petition against the proposals, which received hundreds of signatures from residents.

Jennifer Lister previously told the Surrey Comet: "It doesn't make sense that, at a time where children's mental health is in crisis, services that could have a significantly positive influence are being cut.

"I recognise that councils across the country are dealing with a substantial decrease in government funding. This is not a situation that is unique to the borough of Kingston.

"We cannot let austerity impact upon our children and their futures. Looking after our children and families is looking after the future of our country".

The council said Friday it planned to work with local communities in each of these areas to develop an outreach offer of services and activities.