All Hampshire Sure Start centres will remain but £6m cuts will go ahead

111376_DOWNING_STREET_18/04/11''Parents and children supporting a petition against cuts to the Sure Start programme hand their petition to No10 Downing Street London. ''Picture: Allan Hutchings (111376-438)
111376_DOWNING_STREET_18/04/11''Parents and children supporting a petition against cuts to the Sure Start programme hand their petition to No10 Downing Street London. ''Picture: Allan Hutchings (111376-438)

Portsmouth MP aims to tackle loneliness with campaign

0
Have your say

An attempt to save Hampshire’s Sure Start children’s centres from £6m of cuts has failed.

But Hampshire County Councillors have promised that all 81 centres will remain open.

At an emergency county council meeting, parents of young children has pleaded with councillors not to remove £6m from its annual £17m spend on the Sure Start centres.

Rebecca Frost, whose son Zach has been using a Sure Start centre of the last 18 months, said: ‘My son is autistic and because of his condition he could be violent so he was unable to go and socially interact with other children.

‘We were alone and I was in despair but the Sure Start centre officers have supported me as a mother and have helped Zach communicate with children his own age. We rely on the centre, it has changed our lives.’

Hampshire County Council currently spends £17m per year on 81 Sure Start centres across the county. But it says it must save £6m this year.

But Clair-Louise McLennan said ‘I have two young children when my husband was diagnosed with terminal cancer. I had no idea how to cope. I convinced myself that the best thing to do would be to take my own life. I took the pills and told my children I loved them very much and I closed my eyes for what I thought would be the last time.

‘I was saved on that occasion and my children when to live their aunty while I received treatment.

‘But without help my depression returned and I again tried to take my life.

‘But since the family support workers at the Sure Start centre have been working with me and my children. Their input has been vital. They have virtually saved my life and kept my children out of care.’

Liberal Democrat councillors led calls for the council to reconsider the cut which will see 35 management staff and 30 support officers lose their jobs.

But their proposals were rejected by the Tory led council.

Council leader, councillor Ken Thornber said: ‘A consultation has taken place and we are analysing its responses. What we have suggested are only proposals and will not be acted on until that process is completed. But we do have to save £6m.’

Parents feared that the budget cuts would mean Sure Start centres would be forced to closed.

But Councillor Roy Perry, leader of Children’s Services said: ‘Hampshire County Council will not close Sure Start centres.

‘All councillors from all parties are proud of them and the services they provide. It is true that under our proposals, third parties might take some centres over but our tender will make it clear they must not be closed. We believe savings can be made by merging management for several centres.’

A final decision is expected to be made at the council’s cabinet meet on May 24.