Salford City Council is proposing that services currently provided by eight main children’s centre sites, with a further seven linked sites, are centralised into four main ‘hubs’ in five centres in Little Hulton, Winton, Broughton, Langworthy Cornerstones and Swinton.
The centres would be closed over a three-year period under the plans.
Parents have set up several protest groups to campaign against the closure of their local centres, including the Fight the Closure of our Surestart Centres group for the Irlam and Cadishead centres.
Sue Eden Campayne, a campaigner for the group and mother of two young children, (pictured on the left), said closing both centres would leave her local area two bus rides away from their nearest hub.
‘The economic situation is the same all over the country and to be honest I don’t think there’s any way we can avoid cuts, but it’s about making the plan to deal with them better than the council has,’ she said.
‘Our particular issue is that we’re isolated here. We want to look at keeping our centres for at least another year while we investigate a more sustainable programme, maybe by looking in to sponsorship or teaming up with businesses, or running as a charity.
‘The centres give you lots of things you wouldn’t have access to otherwise, like back to work support, sensory rooms, speech and language courses and classes for mums like yoga. But they also just give you informal advice from staff – if you have a query or problem they can answer you very quickly rather than having to ring a helpline and get put on hold for hours, and you’re getting help from someone you know and have built up a lot of trust with. That’s extremely valuable.’
The group has set up a petition, which has around 1,500 signatures so far, as well as an e-petition, which currently has over 250 signatures.
The council says it will aim to focus more on ‘targeted’ services supporting specific or individual needs, allowing partners and early years childcare providers to play a greater role in the delivery of ‘universal’ services such as play opportunities, health services and adult learning. These universal services will be run from community venues including GP surgeries, libraries, leisure venues, early years childcare providers and service users’ homes.
The council has acknowledged that there will be a reduction in staff numbers across the city’s children’s centres.
A spokesperson for the council said, ‘The council is trying to save £1 million from the children’s centres budget as part of the £26 million cuts forced on us by the government this year. We are trying to protect as many staff jobs as possible so that services to families can continue, particularly in community venues. That means we are having to look at the buildings, which are very expensive to run.
‘This is about trying to protect a network of centres rather than destroying them. We are being forced to look at an outreach model that allows us to deliver a service. It's a straightforward and very difficult choice between cutting staff or cutting the buildings - unless other organisations will come in to fund their running costs.’
Mayor of Salford Ian Stewart has also created a ‘Fair Deal for Salford’ e-petition, asking David Cameron to meet with an all-party delegation from the area to discuss the effects of the Government’s austerity measures on local services.
- The consultation on the future of the children’s centres will run until Monday 30 June.
Sign the mayor’s e-petition