Parents vow to save children’s centre from axe

Lesley Cuthel (31), middle holding petition, and Charlotte Godman (32) with staff and mums, dads and children who use the centre
Lesley Cuthel (31), middle holding petition, and Charlotte Godman (32) with staff and mums, dads and children who use the centre

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ANGRY parents are lobbying Hampshire County Council to save a children’s centre in Leigh Park.

Dozens of services ranging from child health clinics to parenting classes at Park Futures in Warren Park are at risk.

It comes as a new Sure Start contract for East Havant no longer recognises it as a ‘designated’ centre.

The news came to light when contracts for the East Havant group of five centres including Park Futures went to national charity Action for Children.

Hampshire’s education chief Roy Perry insists the community will continue to get a full service, and council representatives will attend a public meeting at Park Futures at 1pm on Tuesday to discuss their options.

But mums who use the centre worry they will be left with nothing.

Charlotte Godman, 32, who has two young children, says the centre was there for her after losing her parents in the space of a few years.

She said: ‘I’m going to fight with everything I’ve got to keep our centre here.’

Mum-of-five Lesley Cuthel, 31, said: ‘A lot of vulnerable families won’t go to any other centre. If the services go, they’re going to be left isolated.’

Caroline Mortimer, 25, mum-of-three, added: ‘I’ve been coming here for seven years. I didn’t bond with my first-born because of difficulties with labour, but the centre helped me find that bond.

‘If not for this place I wouldn’t have had my other children. This centre is a part of my life. I won’t let anyone take it away.’

The council argues it could not include Park Futures in the contract because current managers Park Families, a charity, also own the leasehold.

Helen Baker, the centre’s manager, said: ‘The lack of transparency is outrageous. There was a consultation that took place for children and families, but this was not clearly outlined.

‘The biggest shock is the fact that secure and continued delivery of the service at this centre is no longer guaranteed.’

Action for Children will take over on April 23. Before then, Hampshire have promised to work with them to ensure Park Futures, which currently sees 200 families a week, continues to provide a full service.

Cllr Perry said: ‘Our desire and wish is that the services will continue to operate from Park Futures.

‘We’ve put in the contract that the managers need to provide a service in the location.’

Park Families will continue to run a cafe, nursery and NVQ courses on their site.