Gosport MP steps in to fight to save Sure Start centres in town

Parents from Gosport and Fareham, from left, Gemma Blanks, 32, Kirsty Wilson, 32, Adam Darby, 31, Rosalyn Fawcett, 33 and Leanda Woodward, 32, with their children outside The Haven Sure Start centre in Gosport Picture: Sarah Standing (160513-7191)
Parents from Gosport and Fareham, from left, Gemma Blanks, 32, Kirsty Wilson, 32, Adam Darby, 31, Rosalyn Fawcett, 33 and Leanda Woodward, 32, with their children outside The Haven Sure Start centre in Gosport Picture: Sarah Standing (160513-7191)
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AN MP who fought to save children’s centres from being axed five years ago is now battling to stop more closures.

Caroline Dinenage, who represents Gosport, said she was shocked and saddened to learn Hampshire County Council was looking to shut five of the six centres in the town.

The move is part of a county-wide initiative to create district hubs to replace Sure Start centres. It would see 54 centres cut to 11.

Ms Dinenage said: ‘In 2011, I vehemently campaigned against the closure of Sure Start centres in my constituency. I even spoke to the Prime Minister against proposed cuts to this front-line service upon which so many people rely.’

A consultation is taking place for people to give their views.

Ms Dinenage met Councillor Keith Mans, executive member for children’s services at the council.

She added: ‘I took the opportunity to meet Cllr Mans to express my grave concerns about the proposals for a streamlined Family Support Service.

‘These centres provide invaluable services to my constituents.

‘Families sometimes need practical and social support when coping with the challenges of raising young children.

‘This is particularly true in Gosport, which not only has pockets of deprivation but also many forces families which may not have nearby relatives to rely upon for support.

‘In my meeting I strongly urged the council to reconsider these proposals.

‘I would encourage constituents to make their voices heard too.’

As reported in The News, parents in Gosport have expressed their anger and concern over the proposals.

They said the council did not understand how important the centres were.

The authority made the announcement last month, saying that it would be developing ‘a new, single, integrated family support service that would bring together the work of early help hubs, children’s centre services and youth support services.’

The consultation closes at midday on May 3. Go to hants.gov.uk/childrens-services-consultation.

100 people have given their views on Hampshire County Council’s proposals for developing a new family support service.

People are being asked to give their views in a 10-week public consultation on the council’s proposal to transform early help services.

Councillor Keith Mans, executive lead member for children’s services, said: ‘I am conscious that there are parents who are concerned about the proposal to reduce the number of buildings in use across the county. What should be borne in mind is that increasingly, services are being delivered in different and more flexible ways through home visits and use of community venues, requiring the use of fewer buildings.’

For more information, and to respond to the consultation, visit hants.gov.uk/childrens-services-consultation.

Drop-in events will take place at Fareham Community Church, in West Street on April 14, from 1pm until 3pm, and at Waterlooville Community Centre on April 21, from 1pm to 3pm.