Parents re-launch campaign to save Hackney children's centres that are under threat for a second time

Katy Morton
Thursday, February 1, 2024

Hackney parents have launched a campaign against the proposed closure and restructuring of four of the borough’s children’s centres by the council in a bid to make £4m in savings within the next three years.

Parents held a protest outside the children's centres earlier this week
Parents held a protest outside the children's centres earlier this week

Hackney Council has put plans out for consultation to close its settings at Fernbank and Sebright Children’s Centres. It has also proposed to change the nursery at Hillside Children’s Centre into an early years Additional Resource Provision (APR) – a specialist setting for children with SEN - as well as limit places at the Oldhill Children’s Centre nursery to children aged six months to three years old.

According to the consultation, which closes on 25 April, alternative providers would be invited to take over the running of Fernbank and Sebright Children’s Centres. However, if an alternative provider is not found by this Autumn, the two centres will close next August.

Parents and carers have launched a campaign calling on Mayor Caroline Woodley to halt the closures and to commit to safeguarding affordable childcare places and children’s centres for the future. They staged a protest against the proposals outside Sebright Children’s Centre in Haggerston at the beginning of the week.

According to the campaigners if the council’s plans go ahead, the closures will result in a loss of almost 150 subsidised places. They say this is equivalent to more than 25 per cent of the total places currently on offer at Hackney children’s centre nurseries. Over 40 employees could lose their job.

This is the second time the Council’s children’s centre nurseries have come under threat. In 2021, Hackney Council proposed closing the settings at Hillside and Fernbank children’s centres due to a drop in demand for places, but decided to ‘pause’ the plans following campaigning by parents, which received the support of local MP Diane Abbott.  

'This has come completley out the blue'

Spokesperson for the parent campaign group, Yulisa Keselman, who has a child at Sebright nursery, said that the news had come ‘completely out of the blue for staff and parents.’

Natalie Aguilera, a parent with a child at Fernbank Nursery who was involved in the last campaign to stop the closures of Fernbank and Hillside, added, ‘We are devastated to be here, once again, fighting to keep these vital services that offer a lifeline for many low-income families in particular, open. Parents and carers are angry and emotional about staff redundancies, and deeply anxious about the impact on their children, as well as the enormous difficulty of finding affordable childcare elsewhere.

‘Unfortunately, just like last time, the data and evidence included in the rationale for proposed closures is incorrect, incomplete and, in places, actively misleading. The data on occupancy rates that so much of their case for closures rests on is deeply flawed.’

‘Hackney Council has still not presented a long-term plan to safeguard remaining children’s centre nursery provision, so we strongly believe more closures will follow if we allow them to go ahead with these.  

‘We call on Mayor Woodley to stop these closures – that the community clearly rejected only two years ago – and to invest in quality, affordable childcare in Hackney.’

The trade union Unison’s Hackney branch urged the council to make sure its public consultation is ‘balanced, accurate, not misleading and is genuinely interested in the views of the community rather than a tick box exercise.’

 

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