Parents make plea to save children’s centres from closure

HOT TOPIC: Shakeel Hafez of Kirklees consultation team talks to parents at Staincliffe and Healey Children's Centre. (d18011255)
HOT TOPIC: Shakeel Hafez of Kirklees consultation team talks to parents at Staincliffe and Healey Children's Centre. (d18011255)

PARENTS have made an emotive plea for public support to help save children’s centres from closure.

Kirklees Council released a document last year laying out proposals to reorganise the centres, making some lead centres for children more in need of council services, and associate centres which would offer a reduced service.

Although the council says the shuffle, which is currently being consulted on, will save all centres from closure, members of the Save Our Centres campaign say the associate centres will end up being forgotten about.

Coun Cath Harris, cabinet member for children’s services, told councillors at a full council meeting last week Kirklees was doing all it could to prevent the closure of any children’s centre.

She said other authorities in the country had closed several centres in order to make savings.

The Kirklees consultation team has met parents at Staincliffe and Healey Children’s Centre to explain the changes being proposed, but several parents told the team they wouldn’t support the proposals.

And at a meeting at Batley Town Hall on Tuesday Unison chief steward Graham Paisley accused the council of retaining the so-called associate centres in order to save some of the money it would have to pay back to the government if the centres were to fold.

The union has formed a coalition with the Save Our Centres campaign to defend the centres they say are at risk of being ‘mothballed’.

Members of the campaign group described how they had been given a lifeline by their local children’s centre, helping them to access different services no matter what their social background.

Grandparent Chris Head described the service as being like a Swiss army knife for his family. Now, the group says those services will only be available to parents on benefits or whose children have special needs.

Mr Paisley appealed to all members of the public to sign a petition calling for the idea to be scrapped.

The petition will be presented at the council’s budget-setting meeting next month.

The group is also planning a protest march through Huddersfield in March.

Details of the group can be found on Facebook by searching Save our Children’s Centres.