Mums to protest at centre closures
5:30am Tuesday 22nd July 2014 in By Mike Benke, @Michael_Benke
ANGRY mums will stage a protest today against plans to close a number of children’s centres.
Last week the council announced it was starting a consultation on plans to close seven of the town’s 12 centres in a bid to save almost £800,000.
A protest has been organised for 10.30am this morning outside Jury’s Inn in Fleming Way in a bid to send a message to the council that many people are against the cuts.
One of the protest organisers, Wendy Cutter, 35, of Walcot, who attends Drove Children’s Centre with her one-year-old son James, says a lot of parents are angry about the proposals.
She said: “These centres play a really important role for everyone who uses them. It is not just the groups which they use but the other things which the children’s centres provide.
“The staff who work there are all professionally trained and so can spot things like domestic abuse or post natal depression. These can then be dealt with in a discreet way.
“If you close the services down then it will have severe repercussions.”
Although the Drove Road centre will not be affected by the changes, Wendy believes services will suffer because of increased demand.
The Croft children’s centre is set to close and users will be directed to Drove.
“The Stay And Play already fills up to capacity as there are only so many people who can fit into the room,” said Wendy.
“When you get more people, these services are going to fill up quickly. Those who have to travel further may struggle to get there on time and then miss out.”
The council is facing having to find £48m savings in the next three years.
The cabinet member for children’s services, Fionuala Foley (Con, Chiseldon and Lawn) said: “Doing nothing about it is not an option and so difficult decisions have to be made. With this move I have made sure the most vulnerable children will be protected.
“The centres in the super cluster and Parks and Walcot are ring fenced. There will be no changes there.
“There are some areas where parents will have to travel further and for that I am sorry. But while it may be inconvenient they will still have access to a centre.
“We have had to look at the areas of need and prioritise where the service is needed.”
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