24 LEICESTERSHIRE CHILDREN’S CENTRES THREATENED WITH CLOSURE.
A campaign has started to fight the proposed closure of Children’s Centres across Leicestershire.
Leicestershire County Council have proposed closing 24 Children’s Centres (formerly known as Surestart centres) and one family centre and merging the service with all other family and young people’s services, including Supporting Leicestershire Families (SLF) scheme, Early Help Information Support and Assessment (EHISA) and the Youth Offending service (YOS).
Following the launch of the council’s consultation an action group, ‘Save Our Children’s Centres Leicestershire’ has been started on Facebook to oppose the closures. The group comprises of users past and present, volunteers, health professionals and various support groups operating out of the centers.
Liz Yeates, one of the group’s founder members, who used the centres with her young daughter said, “We cannot allow these services to be cut from the lives of the most vulnerable, and we’ve got to defend the jobs of the people who have dedicated their careers to assisting our most vulnerable young children.”
In addition to the council’s own services many other agencies operate out of Children’ Centres, for example Health Visiting services, Breastfeeding Support, Child Health Events and many volunteer led groups such as Breastfeeding groups, Parent Carer Well-being, Sling (babywearing), Multiple-birth (twins etc.) support groups, Childminder groups, singing and music groups. The centres are also well used by the council’s own GO LEARN service providing valuable education programs for parents in need.
Liz Blackshaw, a volunteer who has worked at a number of the Children’s Centres and another founder member of the action group said, “ The centres have transformed the lives of young children and their parents up across Leicestershire. The important role that children’s centres play in providing effective multi-agency working is widely recognised both locally and nationally.”
Adding “In all likelihood it is the parents of the most vulnerable children who will be the ones least likely to attend the new centres.”
Michelle Robson, mother of four and volunteer for Home Start a charity operating out of the centres said, “I’m particularly worried about the effect the closures would have on a mothers mental health. Early parenthood can be very isolating and the support and contact mums get at the centre is vitally important. Children’s Centres are worth their weight in gold and without them my own story could have been very different.”
The group has expressed their concern that vulnerable families and children in need will be forced to make extended (and in some cases prohibitively expensive) journeys to the remaining centres. In addition the group is worried that some may feel stigmatized for going to a building that will also be used for the Youth Offending Service.
County Councilor Sean Sheahan, Labour’s spokesperson on Children and Families, said “Children’s Centres are a precious resource for young families whenever they need extra support. Closing Children’s Centres and taking away that support risks enormous harm, not only to families today, but also to future generations.”
Laurie Needham, member of the group and parish councilor in East Goscote said “The council don’t appear to have thought the financial implications through, the council’s own report, Early Help Review, says that the council may have to pay back up to £5.8 Million in previously awarded grant money.”
She continued “Closing the centres will shift a sizable financial burden on to the NHS, while other services will often not be able to afford the rent on alternative accommodation and many of the groups will be forced to close.”
Maria Bagnall who is an administrator of the group’s Facebook page has started a petition on 38degrees to oppose the changes
But she stressed that the most important thing was for all users, volunteers anyone else with an interest to complete the on-line consultation.
The survey for the consultation can be found at https://tinyurl.com/y7du448l
Emails pertaining to the consultation should be sent to [email protected]
The consultation closes on midnight Sunday 22nd April.