THE CAMPAIGN to fight proposals to merge Sure Start centres across Hampshire is almost £3,000 in debt – but mums are not giving up.
Catherine Ovenden, joint-founder of Save Our Children’s Centres (SOCC), has just £49 left on her credit card after spending £2,000 on coach trips, printing, phone calls and other expenses tied to the long-running campaign.
She said: ‘We have run up a big debt during our campaign which we’ve not been able to pay off.
‘It’s not easy on any of us as we haven’t got that sort of cash to spare.
‘But nothing will get in the way of this campaign because we all feel the cause is more important than any amount of money.
‘If we have to raise funds for the next three years to reimburse all the families then so be it.
‘Children’s centres change lives. We all believe in them so strongly and that’s why none of us are giving up.
‘It doesn’t seem right that families will lose out on the support that my generation had.’
The campaign has included some costly high profile events including a £500 coach trip to 10 Downing Street to deliver a 22,000-strong petition opposing the plans.
Protesters are now eagerly awaiting the findings of a consultation into proposals to merge 81 centres to create 53 overall, which will be run in large clusters by a single manager, in order to make 35 per cent savings of £6m to the Sure Start budget.
It is due to be published tomorrow and will be put to Cllr Roy Perry, executive lead member for children’s services, on Friday, May 27, when he will reach a final decision.
Cllr Perry said: ‘This has been a meaningful and real consultation. I am looking forward to getting the feedback on the consultation.’
Mrs Ovenden is appealing to supporters to vote online and help SOCC win the Co-Operative’s Community Fund worth £5,000.
SOCC has to attract the highest number of votes by May 29. They are currently in ninth place with 240 votes compared with the front-runners on 1,295 votes.
She is also seeking to set up a SOCC account so that the campaign will carry on even after changes to centres are made, to enable parents to take part in courses that would benefit the centres.
To vote for the Co-op prizemoney, visit co-operative.coop/join-the-revolution/save-our-children-s-centres-socc-hampshire.
Two children’s centres in Fareham that are proposed to merge with other centres have received outstanding Ofsted reports.
Oak Meadow and Strawberry Meadow, that share a site in Tewkesbury Avenue, were given flying colours following inspections in March.
Oak Meadow was praised for its exemplary outreach work and engagement with vulnerable families in services.
Joanne Caswell, who inspected Stawberry Meadow, added: ‘Children and families make rapid improvements in all outcomes, often while facing the most challenging of personal circumstances.’