Don’t cut our lifeline: Parents’ fears over children’s centre closures | UK News
Dozens of children’s centres across the country are facing closure as part of council cuts to funding.
Parents say the centres are a vital lifeline, while experts warn closures could leave some of the most vulnerable families at risk.
At Epsom Downs Children’s Centre in Surrey staff offer a range of services to support local families.
It is a one stop shop for everything from parenting classes to children’s play sessions.
One mum who is a regular at the centre, Kelly Sutherland, said: “I’m scared that if they do go, who’s going to be there to fight my battles when no one wants to help me.”
Another, Leanne Blyth, says staff helped her when she suffered post-natal depression with both her children.
“The support staff here are amazing, people think we’re just here for a chat, but it offers so much more than that,” she said.
Surrey County Council is considering cutting the number of centres from 58 to 21 centres. Council leader Tim Oliver has said the changes “will hugely improve key services”.
The final decision will be made next week.
Hundreds of centres have already been shut across the UK.
Charities say the closures are short-sighted and will disadvantage many families, especially those on lower incomes.
The director of policy for the charity Action for Children, Imran Hussain, said: “Most of the money when it comes to children is being spent on late intervention, when children are in crisis – but the value of children’s centres is it prevents children falling into crisis.
“We think the government is getting it the wrong way round. We should be investing early… rather than firefighting to get children out of crisis.”
In High Wycombe, single mum Leanne Forbes says the support she received saved her life.
Two years ago, she felt so isolated she was close to suicide.
“It was really hard, basically I wanted to end my life, that’s how rock bottom I was and how depressed I was feeling,” she said.
“If it wasn’t for the help I received from the centre, I can’t imagine what would have happened to my children, where they would be.”
Leanne now has a job and still relies on support from the centre’s staff.
She says politicians should be investing in children’s centres, not cutting their budgets.
In a statement, a spokesperson for the Department for Education said: “Children’s centres can play an important role in supporting families, but it’s right local councils decide how to organise and provide the services for families in their areas, because they are best placed to understand how to meet the local needs – whether this is through children’s centre buildings or delivering services in different ways.”