No certain answers over future of Warren Park children’s centre

DEBATE The meeting.  Picture: Paul Jacobs (120907-3)
DEBATE The meeting. Picture: Paul Jacobs (120907-3)

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EMOTIONS ran high at a meeting about the future of a children’s centre.

Services at Park Futures, in Warren Park, are at risk after the deal to run it – along with Sharps Copse, in West Leigh and Trospacc in Leigh Park – was awarded to National charity, Action for Children.

Hampshire County Council awarded the contract on the basis the centres would be considered under the same umbrella.

But there was no provision to force Action for Children to carry on using the Park Futures building, in Sandleford Road.

Parents, afraid they will lose the facility, launched a campaign and organised the first face-to-face meeting with the charity and Hampshire County Council yesterday at the centre.

There, it was revealed Park Families – the charity which currently runs and owns the centre – will allow the use of the building for children’s services for 50 hours a week.

The ball is now in the council and Action for Children’s court when it comes to providing services when the new contract begins on April 23.

Emma Horne, from Action for Children, insisted when the charity was awarded the contract last week its deal was on the basis it would be ‘business as usual’ for all children’s centres.

She added: ‘There will be a defined budget and we will be working with all the parties and finding out what the priorities are.’

But Mike Newman, from Hampshire’s children’s services, said: ‘I can’t sit here and say nothing will ever change at all because no-one would say that.’

Neil Limburn was a single dad when he first arrived at Park Futures four years ago and with the children’s centre’s help he and his children have thrived.

He said: ‘My understanding is children’s centres were put in deprived areas to help move communities forward.

‘We are still a deprived area.

‘If services are moved out of here and parents have to travel it will cost £8.50 for a weekly ticket which, for a single parent, is half their child benefit.

‘We must stand up and say we need the services here.

‘You’re giving us no answers, no guarantees today.’

Action for Children has promised to consult parents over what they feel are the most important services offered at the centre.

Emma Moonan, who organised the meeting, said: ‘We made it clear we want everything to continue as normal.’