Plans to close Sure Start children’s centres across the Medway Towns, due to funding cuts, have sparked outrage.
Medway Council’s cabinet will discuss changes to early help services at a meeting next Tuesday. The preferred option is to close the 19 centres across Medway to create four larger “super hubs”. But another option is to close them altogether.
The proposal comes after changes in government funding for early years’ provision and the council’s own budget cuts.
The centres are used by mums with young children, some of which could now face long treks on public transport to access services if the super hub plan goes ahead.
The remaining centres would cover much larger areas, for example, one would cover Luton and Rainham, but at the moment, Rainham has three Sure Start centres based in primary schools, offering sessions each day. The centres allow mums to get their babies weighed, get advice on feeding and other health issues and offer a much-needed way to meet other parents.
Plans to shut the centres have sparked outrage on social media and a petition has been set up to against the closures.
'The only outcome I can think of is that most mums will miss out' - Songbo Turner
Mum-of-two Rosy Taylor uses the Deanwood centre in Parkwood.
“I’d be really disappointed if the centre closed down,” she said. “No matter what background you are from being a parent is hard work and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed or lonely.
“The services provided by these centres are really important to all parents whether they are considered vulnerable or not.
“The sessions I have attended at Deanwood with my first and second child have always been busy and the fact they are so local and either free, or very cheap, is wonderful.”
Songbo Turner, who walks to Deanwood centre with her son, said: “As a non-driver, I really appreciate that there is a children’s centre within walking distance.
“I met most of my mummy friends through the children centre and they are great support to me. I can’t imagine what it would be like if the numbers of children centres are reduced dramatically as all the groups I go to are very busy as they are now.
“The only outcome I can think of is that most mums will miss out.”
Mum and nurse Lisa Davies said the plans were “absolute madness”.
She said: “I’d be more concerned about parents in the deprived parts of Medway that barely access services who just won’t access them if they have to catch a bus to get there. I can imagine more mums becoming socially secluded if they don’t meet mums at the bumps and under one groups.”
Samantha Attwell, who has a two-year-old son, said: “I’ve met some wonderful mummy’s at Sure Start and can’t imagine how different life would have been without them all.”
Mum-of-three Hannah Renaud added: “Surely the whole point of having one in each area is so that it is accessible for more people, how would a non-driver get there?
“The good thing about the Sure Start is its brings new mums together, surely have less centres will isolate the mums who can’t get there.”