Campaign steps up to protect Portsmouth children’s centre

Right, Donna Jones, leader of Portsmouth City Council with Jim Fleming, standing for election in Cosham and Hannah Hockaday, councillor for Cosham, with parents, children and volunteers at the Highbury Community and Children's Centre ''Picture: Sarah Standing (160207-2061)
Right, Donna Jones, leader of Portsmouth City Council with Jim Fleming, standing for election in Cosham and Hannah Hockaday, councillor for Cosham, with parents, children and volunteers at the Highbury Community and Children's Centre ''Picture: Sarah Standing (160207-2061)
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CAMPAIGNERS have stepped up their efforts to stop the proposed restructure of a Portsmouth children’s centre.

Plans have been drawn up to turn Cosham’s Highbury Children’s Centre into a ‘satellite hub’ – meaning it would only be open for classes and not offer drop-in support for families.

Donna Jones, leader of Portsmouth City Council (third right) with Jim Fleming, standing for election in Cosham and Hannah Hockaday, councillor for Cosham (far right) with parents, children and volunteers at the Highbury Community and Children's Centre

Donna Jones, leader of Portsmouth City Council (third right) with Jim Fleming, standing for election in Cosham and Hannah Hockaday, councillor for Cosham (far right) with parents, children and volunteers at the Highbury Community and Children's Centre

Parents against the move met Tory council leader Donna Jones at the centre this week to voice their concerns.

Families have already been backed by Tory community activist Jim Fleming, who has been lobbying Cllr Jones to keep the centre as it is.

The move is part of wider plans to close three of the city’s nine children centres, which could save up to £221,000.

Baffins resident Nicky Pybus has used children’s centres before and is soon to start a new role at St Philip’s Church, near the Highbury venue.

A lot of people think children’s centres are just for the most deprived families. But when you are a new mum or dad, you are knocked out of your comfort zone.

Baffins resident Nicky Pybus

She said: ‘For a lot of parents, it can be very daunting and scary first walking through those doors, especially when you are a first-time parent. Organised groups for some people are just not their thing.

‘A lot of people think children’s centres are just for the most deprived families. But when you are a new mum or dad, you are knocked out of your comfort zone.’

A consultation into the proposals finished at the end of January and a final decision will be taken in March.

Cllr Jones said: ‘What became clear to me was that people didn’t feel they were being listened to and felt the consultation was a done deal and the centre would close.

‘After meeting them, they told me they were assured the consultation wasn’t a done deal and that the council was taking seriously ideas and suggestions.’

Cosham councillor Hannah Hockaday has shown her support.

She said: ‘After attending the meeting at the centre, it was clear many mums were passionate to keep it as a hub and not a satellite.

‘This wasn’t down to them living nearby, as some travelled from Paulsgrove to Highbury.

‘They felt it has a friendlier environment which made them feel welcome and want to return.’