Peaceful protest turns noisy as children's service threatened
A peaceful protest turned noisy in Eastleigh as activists took to the streets chanting “Save our sure start.’
The protestors are worried that many sure start childrens centres across Hampshire, including one at Eastleigh will face closure if proposals to streamline family services go through.
The current network of 54 local centres offering support and advice to parents with very young children will be amalgamated into 11 ‘hubs’ which will deliver a broad range of family support servicees .
Hampshire County Council revealed in it’s budget recently that it has a £81 million funding gap following a massive cut in the grant it receives from government. The council says it could save almost £9 million by merging children’s services but protestors say the hubs will be inaccessible to many of those who need it’s services the most.
Catherine Ovenden, a former sure start service user, launched the ‘Save our Sure Start’ campaign in 2011.
She told Eastleigh News:
“Local communities won’t be able to access their centres and lots of people don’t have cars and can’t afford buses so we think they (HCC) are making it inaccessible to families in Hampshire.”
Ovenden acknowledged the County Council was being squeezed by central government but added
“They’ve just got £19 million in transition funding. I want them to use that so they don’t have to shut the centres.
“They need to invest in early intervention and that will save money and save lives in the long run.”
Catherine Ovenden was speaking outside a ‘drop in’ event at the Wells Centre, one of series being held around the county by the Council in order to raise awareness of a on-going public consultation on the proposals.
The protest marchers also heard speeches from Unite organiser Steven Phillips, veteran Labour activist Ted White and Eastleigh Labour Party spokesman Shere Sattar who told Eastleigh News that closure of sure start centres would be ‘disastrous for thousands of families all over Hampshire” and that the government should “stop investing in Trident and start investing in our children’s future”
Readers can participate in the Children’s Services consultation at this web address here.
Catherine Ovenden said:
“We want as many families as possible in Hampshire to fill in the consultation form to have their say on whether these centres should be shut.”
The consultation closes May 3.