‘Where will parents go?’: Concern over proposed closure of six Nottingham children’s centres

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Loxley House, home to Nottingham City Council
By Matt Jarram, Local Democracy Reporter

A charity described proposals to close six children’s centres in the city as ‘disgusting’, adding it fears it will leave some young parents with nowhere to go.

Nottingham City Council says it has no choice but to make the closures as it struggles to fill a large gap in its budget and make £28m of savings over the next year.

Proposals include closing six of the nine children’s centres and moving to a hub model of three, saving the local authority £331,000.

The council says it has fought to protect the services across years of financial uncertainty but a combination of factors means it now has to make more cuts in order to carry on providing other services.

A public consultation will be launched this month to gauge residents’ views and no decision has been made yet on which centres would face the axe.

Children’s centres provide midwifery, antenatal and post-natal clinics, child health clinics, early help for vulnerable parents including parents who have children with disabilities, autism or Asperger’s Syndrome.

They also provide adult learning provision including numeracy and literacy and learning and play sessions for young children and their families.

The current nine centres include Bulwell Children’s Centre, Aspley (Minver Crescent) Children’s Centre, Aspley (Amesbury Circus) Children’s Centre, Broxtowe Children’s Centre, Southglade Access Centre (Bestwood Children’s Centre), Bilborough Children’s Centre, Hyson Green Children’s Centre, Sneinton Children’s Centre and Meadows Children’s Centre.

Project manager of The Chayah Project in St Ann’s, Hyacinth Francis-Watson, says her charity works with the children’s centres in Sneinton and Bilborough.

This includes offering a food bank service and running workshops with struggling families.

She told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “These are safe places for parents and children to go to if they want support, especially if English is their second language.

“It is disgusting. If they are going to close them down why not offer them to the voluntary sector to see if they want to run them? It is just separating the community.

“There will be more dysfunctional families, more crime, and social care will have to step up. Where will these parents go when they are in need? Where is their safe place?

“The people who use the centres are the most deprived.”

Former chair of the Old Meadows Tenants’ and Residents’ Association, Margaret Spencer, 82, said she remembers when The Meadows Children’s Centre first opened.

She said she hoped it would not be among those affected.

“I think it is very sad,” she said. “It is a place needed for these young children prior to going to nursery or school. The one in The Meadows is where midwives are based and is where young mums meet.

“They have done a great job and it is a shame young children will be missing out on something else.

“All these young mums also need somewhere to go. There is a lot of young mums struggling these days and the children’s centres are a vital part of their lives. People rely on them.

“These mums can’t afford to put their children in expensive nurseries. The ones that are the most vulnerable are the ones that will miss out.”

Greg Feltham, chair of the Sneinton Tenants’ and Residents Association, said it is “inevitable” some children’s centres will need to close.

One of the children’s centres on the council list is based in Sneinton.

He said: “In an ideal world no council would make this proposal but the reality is the budgets are in a state where they have to look at cutting costs and it is inevitable.”

Speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service this week, Cllr Sam Webster (Lab), portfolio holder for finance, said reductions in government funding were behind the £28m gap in finances.

He said it also comes on the back of a “social care crisis”, with adult social care and child social care taking up a combined £155m of the council’s £240m overall budget.

He also says the local authority has been left £19.4m out of pocket through not being fully compensated for income lost as a result of tackling Covid-19.

“These services are important to families and children – that is why we have desperately tried to safeguard them,” he said earlier this week.

He added he had tried to protect services for “years and years” but says under funding by Government was most to blame for the decision to reduce services.

“I am frustrated by the things I have to do,” he added.

Cllr Andrew Rule, leader of the Conservative group at the council, said he believes the council could better protect services by selling off companies and better managing properties it owns.

 

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