Cloud hangs over playhouse’s future

The Wesley Playhouse in Howden Clough, Birstall in under threat because of government policy which allows 15 hours a week free childcare for three to four-year-olds.
The Wesley Playhouse in Howden Clough, Birstall in under threat because of government policy which allows 15 hours a week free childcare for three to four-year-olds.

The future of a children’s play service is uncertain because of government policy, its members claim.

Attendance at the Wesley Playhouse, based at Howden Clough Methodist Church in Nab Lane, has halved over 12 months.

Leader Caroline Holt is blaming the government’s policy of offering three and four-year-olds 570 hours of free early education or childcare a year for the drop. The care can work as 15 hours each week, for 38 weeks of the year.

The playhouse’s only source of funding comes from its £3.50 entry price, and Caroline fears that the eight year old service – run by two workers and 20 volunteers – may be forced to close by the end of the summer if those using free care do not attend.

Caroline, 47, of Halifax Road, Liversedge, said: “It’s decimated us. We had a thousand people a month coming through the door and it’s probably halved at least.”

She and member Neil Hall think the Wesley Playhouse’s Christian emphasis on parents and children attending together sets the service apart from free care, during which mums and dads are not as encouraged to join in with play.

Jane Moody takes her son Max, three, to the playhouse. “It’s one of the most tranquil, peaceful places you can come with your kids,” she said.

Caroline is now calling on potential sponsors to help fund the playhouse and appealed to parents to try the service, which runs on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 10am-4pm.