THE council does not understand how crucial Sure Start centres are to us.
That is the message from concerned parents who say the closure of the centres to be replaced by one district hub would see many people suffer.
They have also criticised Hampshire County Council, which is proposing the closures as a cost-cutting measure – despite the authority setting aside £10,000 on a street party in Winchester for the Queen’s 90th birthday.
Single dad Adam Darby said The Haven Sure Start centre, in Gosport, helped him when he was trying to get custody for his children.
‘I was referred to the centre by social services who didn’t have the time or the man power to help me,’ he said.
‘I was going through the breakdown of a relationship and I was a mess. The Haven helped me with custody and if it wasn’t for them, I probably wouldn’t have my kids. They way the explained things to me and helped me, kept me going.
They way the explained things to me and helped me, kept me going.Adam Darby
‘There will be so much more strain on social services and the hub they are proposing if they close other centres.’
Sure Start centres give help and advice on child and family health, parenting, money, training and employment. Some centres also provide early learning and full daycare for pre-school children.
Adam added: ‘The council just see figures and it is terrible they are spending £10,000 on a party. That could help parents who are isolated.’
Other parents who use The Haven, in Bridgemary, agree.
Kirsty Wilson, 32, said: ‘It is because of centres like these that we don’t need to rush off to A&E or call 111 because of a cough or rosy cheeks. The staff are all qualified and educated and they really help us with caring for our children.’
Gemma Blanks, 32, said: ‘People who attend the sessions are from all walks of life and it is a great way to socialise. I didn’t have any friends or family when I came to Gosport and they really help socialise the parents and the children.’
As previously reported in The News, the county council is holding a 10-week consultation about its proposal, which will see the current 54 centres cut to just 11 district hubs across Hampshire.
The authority made the announcement last month, saying that it will 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 motion has been put forward in a bid to save the council £8.5m, to help plug a £98m funding shortfall by 2017.