DUDLEY Council says it has paused its tender process for specialist early years hubs providers to enable parents to have their say on a proposed shake-up of the service.

Concerned parents took to the town hall steps last month to complain about the council’s plans to decentralise provision for children with special needs provided by Leapfrog and Leapfrog Too at Netherton Park Nursery School and create five Early Years Inclusion Hubs at locations across the borough by autumn.

And last week the News reported how more than 1,000 people had signed a petition calling for a rethink of the plan – saying there was not enough time to make such major changes in time for the start of the new school year in September.

Dudley Council bosses said last week that the tender application process had closed and the locations for the new hubs would be known by mid-June.

But the local authority has today (Friday May 26) announced that the tender process has been paused and a public consultation with parents, carers and key stakeholders is to take place throughout June to enable people to have their say.

Councillor Ruth Buttery, the council’s cabinet member for children’s services and education, said: “Children are at the heart of all we do and, after having many conversations with parents and carers, we have taken the decision to pause the tender process for the five township inclusion hubs.

“We want to reassure everyone that we are listening, and we recognise that children are naturally every parent’s priority.

“We are now in the process of contacting parents, carers and stakeholders to invite them to have their say in a four-week consultation period and people can find out more at www.dudley.gov.uk/EYinclusionhubs.

“We will continue to work together to find a strong and sustainable model for early years provision.”

The council said a review of the inclusive early years provision was undertaken last year, and a multi-agency group was established to look at best practice.

The work included engagement with partners and the Parent Carer Forum and recommendations were made for the township model.

People will have from June 5 to 30 to have their say on the planned changes to the provision.

Parent Ash Walton, whose autistic son Cole has come on leaps and bounds at Leapfrog, welcomed the news that a consultation will now take place and said hopefully it is “a step in the right direction” but he added: “Parents and supporters should not have to fight so hard to keep a unit like Leapfrog in place.

“It should be praised and used as an example and what is expected for a unit which deals with children with complex and special needs.”

Anyone not online and wanting to take part in the consultation can request a printed copy by calling 01384 814398.