Parents angry at Hampshire County Council's decision to close children's centres

PARENTS have spoken of their anger after it was decided to close 54 children's centres and replace them with 11 district hubs.

Saturday, 2nd July 2016, 6:27 am
(L-r) Campaigners and parents Gemma Blanks (32), Kirsty Wilson (32), Adam Darby (31), Rosalyn Fawcett (33), and Leanda Woodward (32) with their children outside The Haven Sure Start centre in Gosport

Councillor Keith Mans, executive member for children’s services at Hampshire County Council, made the decision at a meeting yesterday.

The move will see four Sure Start centres in Gosport and Fareham and six in Havant closed and replaced with one hub per area known as a Family Support Service. It is hoped to save the council £8.5m.

Single dad Adam Darby uses the service in Gosport. He said: ‘The decision is very disappointing and has made a lot of people angry.

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‘It was almost as if the council had already made up its mind, despite the thousands of people who took part in the consultation to keep the centres open.

‘One hub per district is not going to be able to offer the same support as four.’

Fellow single parent Jill Blake, from Fareham, added: ‘I am so angry at this terrible decision. We need these centres, but the council does not seem to understand that or care.’

Gosport MP Caroline Dinenage had met with Cllr Mans during the consultation period to ask him to consider other options. On the decision, she said: ‘I’m so furious. I went up to Winchester, I went up to see the county council and begged them not to take away the children’s centres in Gosport.

‘We so desperately need them in Gosport. Not only do we have pockets of deprivation, but forces families who don’t have the family support around them.

‘These children’s centres are invaluable, I begged him to do it on the basis of need, rather than dishing out one per area. It’s really devastating news.’

The 11 new hubs will bring together the work of early help hubs, children’s centre services and youth support services into a single, joined-up service for vulnerable families with children aged up to 19 years.

The service will target help specifically for vulnerable families with children who have multiple needs, often requiring the involvement of more than one agency.

Cllr Mans said: ‘This decision has not been easy, but I am satisfied that this new service will support those who are most vulnerable and in need of help.’

but who do not meet the threshold for statutory social care.’

In the face of on-going profound reductions in central government funding, we are determined to maintain essential services, particularly services for those with high levels of need of our help, care and protection.’