Charity warns children's centre cuts could worsen family issues
A leading charity is calling for children's centres to be put at the heart of tackling family problems as a fight to save services in the Somer Valley area moves up a gear.
Figures released by national charity 4Children show that for the first time across the country more than one million families are using local children's centres and that the centres are supporting two thirds of all disadvantaged families with children under five.
The plea from the charity comes as the campaign to save local children's centres gathers momentum, with supporters confident they have collected the minimum 1,000 signatures needed to force Bath and North East Somerset councillors to debate proposed cuts to the service.
4Children is warning that the valuable progress being made will be put at risk if local authority predictions of cuts to children's centres are realised.
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Key recommendations from the body include placing centres at the heart of local early intervention and prevention strategies and committing additional investment by extending the pupil premium to the early years.
Findings in the census show that centres have a crucial role to play in safeguarding and child protection.
Somer Valley Children's Centre campaigner Nettie Williams said the planned cuts in B&NES would be devastating.
She said that the latest Ofsted report for her children's school in Radstock showed just how deprived the area was when it came to how ready children were for school, free school dinners, child protection plans, childhood obesity and other indicators.
Mrs Williams said: "Really it warrants more money being injected, that clearly isn't going to happen.
"However, our children's centre is very good at identifying needs but I share their frustration at not being able to roll out services where needed.
"Part of the argument is that volunteers should run universal services, but from a volunteer's perspective, if I have had not had as intense training as staff have, then how are they going to identify or support those who have extra needs?
"A member of staff is crucial for supporting parents and volunteers a like."
Campaigners hope to present their petition against cuts to B&NES Council at a thank you party being held at the Somer Centre in Midsomer Norton on Saturday, November 9, from 4pm to 5.30pm.