Mum’s appeal for parents to fight for centres

PROTEST Hayley Smith, with her son Jacob, two, and husband, Paul
PROTEST Hayley Smith, with her son Jacob, two, and husband, Paul
Tributes left outside Fareham Academy.

Picture: Ian Hargreaves (180012-4)

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A MOTHER-of-one who fears the closure of her local Sure Start centre is appealing to all parents to fight the county council’s proposals to reduce the number of centres.

Hayley Smith says she would not have been able to cope without the support of Crookhorn Lane Children’s Centre, which the county wants to merge with Mill Hill children’s centre.

The 28-year-old has been using the centre since her son Jacob, now almost three, was six weeks old.

She said: ‘My family had just moved to the area and to be honest I was quite shy and didn’t have any friends.

‘One of the centre’s outreach workers paid me a visit and she initially accompanied me to the centre which completely changed my life.

‘The staff at the centre are wonderful and all the families who use it give a lot of support to each other, so you really do feel like you’re part of an extended family.

‘I went on several courses including maths and cookery, and my son goes practically every single day to play with other children.

‘Jacob used to have a problem with his speech, but now he talks just as well as other children his age.’

She added: ‘If the centre closes it would be devastating to many families in the area as Mill Hill is quite a lot further away – at least 40 minutes’ walk.

‘Even now at Crookhorn Lane many of the courses are oversubscribed so I don’t see how Mill Hill alone or a single site would be able to cope with probably double the number of people.

‘I hope parents make their voices heard and fill out the consultation paper before is too late.’

Mrs Smith volunteers at the centre which is managed by Morelands Primary School, and she says it has helped boost her confidence.

The county council is proposing to significantly reduce the number of children’s centres from 81 to 53 and tender them out to a single provider for each area.

Under pressure from parents over the consultation that they said was complicated and rushed through, education chief Cllr Roy Perry extended the consultation process by a month, until April 14.