Sign petition to safeguard future of children's centres
Please sign the petition to save the children's centres.
As mentioned in the Somerset Guardian last week Bath and North East Somerset Council's Scrutiny Panel heard "impassioned pleas" from mothers who expressed their appreciation for the help and support they had received from children's centres and begged the council not to cut their level of service and expertise.
As a Labour Party member I am proud that children's centres originated from the Labour government's Sure Start initiative in 1998, aimed at "giving children the best possible start in life".
Each centre was allowed to develop in its own way depending on parents' wishes and the organisations running it.
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An evaluation in 2010 identified positive results over a range of indicators, including better physical health, less obesity, a more structured home environment and a network of support from other parents.
Surely the principle of supporting children in their early years, which Labour sought to establish, is something now which all parties should support?
Does the Lib Dem administration in B&NES really want to turn the clock back to 1998?
I would urge readers to sign the petition at democracy. bathnes.gov.uk/mgEPetition Display.aspx?ID=17&RPID= 6529837&HPID=6529837 to persuade them otherwise.
Member of the Bath East, North and West branch of the Labour Party
North East Somerset and Bath Labour will continue to support the parents who rely on the services provided by all of Bath and North East Somerset Council's Children's Centres.
We're well aware of the alternatives the Lib Dems are proposing there are a multitude of reasons these will change centres beyond recognition.
Not least the expectation that volunteers will be able to devote the time and commitment required that will match that of the paid staff. Those staff whom B&NES has invested in heavily in terms of training and continual professional development.
Ourselves and the parents have real fears. The parents for whom these centres have been a literal "lifeline" (who surely should know and be listened to) believe by medicalising the service or reserving it for only the most vulnerable of parents and children by referral, would stigmatise them and cause them to stay away in preference to this.
The effect could be isolation, withdrawal and the ultimate decline of children's centres. We need not mention the psychological effect to families as it stands out as the ultimate sacrifice at the B&NES money altar.
Inclusivity and universality was the intention of these centres, to segregate and divide parents is unthinkable if they are to survive these cuts.
Teachers would be left to pick up the problems a child may have later when they start school, often problems that could have been recognised at a vital early stage. I again question that volunteers, despite the Lib Dem promise of yet further investment in training can devote the time and energy for no pay that the staff from our centres already do.
It's a cut that can't be justified by the claims there is nothing else they are overspending on in council. It's just plain wrong.
Vicky Drew Secretary North East Somerset Labour Party
I read with interest the letter from Neil Hopkins regarding the future funding of children's centres.
As many readers will know, I have been campaigning with local parents to save Children's Services from cuts of £2.3 million (or 38 per cent of their overall budget) which are proposed by the Liberal Democrats.
Whilst I applaud Mr Hopkins' commitment to keeping Peasedown St John Children's Centre open, he needs to be aware that it serves a community far wider than that served by the parish council. This, combined with the sheer scale of the proposed cuts, means that it is unlikely that residents would be willing to support a hike in their parish precept in order to pay for it to stay open. After all, as local taxpayers they are already paying for children's centres via their B&NES council tax.
Instead, we need to join together to ensure that the cuts proposed by the Lib Dems are stopped so that Peasedown Children's Centre does not suffer a severe curtailment and reduction in services.
To help achieve this, I'd ask residents to join me in signing a petition which can be found at tinyurl.com/qh35kd4.
Councillor Liz Hardman Labour spokesperson for Early Years