Esther Allen of Chasewater Strollers and Councillor ‘Aunty Sue’ Woodward have been in touch over the weekend to let me know that they’re very worried about the future of the two Children’s centres in Burntwood, and have launched a campaign and petition to keep them open.
Such centres are a vital resource for parents, and have successfully been providing support, community and friendship for years. That they are now slated for closure is a damning indictment of the cuts being wrought on local services.
You can sign the petition here, and there’s a protest meeting at 4:00pm sharp next Tuesday (27th January 2015) at Springhills Academy – detail here.
Esther has this to say about the campaign:
It is the County Council’s plan to close both of Burntwood’s Children’s Centres in April this year.
This is because the Council plan to change their provision for the under fives which will save them money.
Lichfield and Cannock are both keeping a Children’s Centre, yet both of Burntwood’s are being scrapped. Burntwood has a large population and should have the same local facilities that are available to its neighbours.
Users of our local centres provided the most responses out of any Staffordshire district to the Council’s consultation at the end of last year and the survey results were that the majority of people want centres to stay open despite the proposals to close them.
Burntwood’s Children’s Centres are absolutely vital to new parents and offer a wealth of support, guidance, services, groups and classes to many local families. Everything from baby clinics, to antenatal and postnatal classes, family support and adult-education classes. Children’s centres are a place where new parents take their children to check on their health, learn about how best to support their development and get support from other parents. The centres are a lifeline for many new parents and are fantastic purpose-built facilities, with outdoor play areas, baby change, meeting rooms, toys, specialist resources and furniture.
The plan is to transfer the buildings over to become part of Springhill and Boney Hay schools and relocate the Children’s Centre services to other, as yet, undecided locations. However Burntwood has already had it’s planned Health Centre scrapped and Youth Centre closed down. There just aren’t the alternative suitable places in Burntwood with the specialist facilities to hold the clinics, groups and classes to support young families. Why not continue to use our purpose-built facilities instead?
The Council suggest that the buildings are unimportant and that they will support people in the community. However there will be no ‘community’ space to go to, if these centres are closed. Improving the council’s website (which is one of the suggestions) to better support parents is a very poor substitute for a Children’s Centre. New parents and under fives need real face-to-face social interaction, not just a website.
Rather than closing these centres down, we urge the County Council to keep at least one open. Look at ways to get more families into the centre by cutting the red tape, making it more of a community hub and using social media to advertise what is available to reach more families.
Chidren’s opportunities and start in life are incredibly important and it is widely known that the first two years of a child’s life are more important than any other in shaping their development. Yet the Council plan to save money by closing the facilities that provide the services to those that need it most.
I wish Esther, Sue and all the other campaigners well in their fight. We live in grim times indeed.
The Chasewater Strollers are a very popular buggy walking group for parents, run by Esther Allen and still going from strength. They meet every Monday, 9:30am at St Anne’s Church, Chasetown WS7 3QL – why not pop along tomorrow?
Any questions please send us an email or facebook message. Otherwise just turn up and you will be made very welcome!