The ‘West End Extra’ reports;
“A PARENT rebellion is building over plans to axe “crucial” children’s centres across the borough.
The council has launched a consultation on a “new model” that would leave just four fully functioning council-run children’s centres open in Westminster.
Karen Buck MP warned the cuts would “come back and haunt us” and said she had been inundated with messages of concern from her Westminster North constituents.
One new mum, Anne Watson, from Maida Vale, who takes her six-month-old son to Westbourne Children’s Centre, said: “The staff at Westbourne are amazing, they are really kind, caring and supportive, they give expert advice and there is always somebody there to talk to.
“It is such a lifeline. But once these things go it’s very hard to get them back.”
She feared that life would become a lot more difficult if the centre was closed, forcing local parents and children to travel further afield.
Ms Watson said: “Westbourne Children’s Centre is in the middle of several large estates with lots of mums and kids.
“If you look at some of the deprivation figures for the borough, not everyone is going to be able to afford to go further.”
If the changes go ahead, children’s centres in Churchill Gardens, Church Street, Maida Vale and Queen’s Park could be transformed into new-style “children and family hubs”, which would also be opened up to people aged up to 19 years old. “Two-year old education places” will also be created at four additional centres. All other children’s centres would be shut.
Ms Watson added: “I understand that money is tight, you can’t look at the news and not see more budget cuts, but for children it is so important – these groups are helping little children to learn to speak, to read, to write, to play… All these things that give children such an amazing start in life and it is all for free. Now people are going to miss out on that.”
Ms Buck said: “All the crucial work of ‘early help’ will disappear, storing up problems and expense for the future. The abject failure to invest in the next generation will come back to haunt us, I fear.”
She added: “The last government introduced children’s centres to provide vital support for parents of young children, and to offer early help to those with problems.
“The service was based on evidence from the US which showed that early investment in a child’s life paid off dramatically in improved health and educational achievements later on.
“The children’s centre service, so carefully built up, is now being destroyed.”
A council spokeswoman said: “We’re proposing to change how we deliver services out of children’s centres and our broader youth services.
“Over the next month we will be consulting with parents and carers who use our services to give them the opportunity to have their say on our proposals, including our proposal for a new Partnership for Young People – a more sustainable way of delivering youth services. “We will also meet with partners and the wider community to identify opportunities for them to join the council in achieving the best outcomes for families.”
The new services will be run by the council in partnership with various organisations such as health professionals, adult education organisation services and faith centres.
The consultation is open until January 31. “