Children make their mark to keep centres open

Newbridge Junior School Picture: Maria Bujor

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HANDPRINTS created by children who use a Sure Start centre have been added to a petition to keep it open.

Around 650 signatures have been collected by mums who use the children’s service in St Cuthbert’s Centre, in Hayling Avenue, Copnor.

Mum Leah Ansell, 26, with her two-year-old daughter Millie Davey.

Mum Leah Ansell, 26, with her two-year-old daughter Millie Davey.

The petition, along with the handprints, has been given to Portsmouth City Council.

As previously reported, the authority is proposing to merge Sure Start centres in an attempt to save about £1m during 2013/14.

One of the centres threatened is the Hayling Avenue centre. Mums can bring their children, from newborns to school age, and the service gives them a chance to play and interact with other children.

Mum-of-three Zoe Lamburth, of Mayfield Avenue, Copnor, says the centres also provide vital support for mothers.

She said: ‘I have Nancy, who is one.

‘I have two other children, but they are much older.

‘So for me it was starting out again. Coming to the centre gives me access to other parents, and Nancy a chance to play with local children.

‘It’s more than a playgroup. The staff are trained to look for signs for things like depression in parents.

‘The early intervention given is amazing and helps with children’s development.

‘It’s also good for the community as it brings people together.’

And Rebecca Barrett, 28, of St Pirans Avenue, Copnor, has been taking her three children to the centre since December last year. She said: ‘I split up with my children’s father and I was left on my own to raise the children. Coming to this centre gives me support and also sets my children up for a good future. We need to keep this in the community.’

A public consultation on the plans ended yesterday.

Proposals include merging 16 centres to bring the total in the city down to nine.

Mergers include Milton Park with the Cumberland and Baffins centres, the combination of Southsea with Brambles, and a merger of the Portsea and Somers Town centres. Paulsgrove, Fratton, and Buckland and Landport children’s centre services will remain as they are.

The consultation information will now be reviewed, with a decision likely to be made within two months.