A PROTEST will take place outside Shire Hall in Warwick tomorrow, Tuesday, as efforts are stepped up to try to save Warwickshire’s closure-threatened Children’s Centres.
People from all over the county are expected to turn out ahead of a meeting of all 57 Warwickshire county councillors.
That meeting starts at 10am, and anyone interested in joining the protest should gather from 9am.
At least three petitions have been signed by more than 3,000 people demanding the scrapping of proposals that could see 12 of the county’s 39 centres turned into Family Hubs with the other 27 at threat of being closed.
Seven of those under threat are in Stratford District where Alcester would become the district’s only Family Hub. Other centres in Shipston-on-Stour, two in Stratford town, Lighthorne Heath, Wellesbourne, Southam, and Studley will be reassessed with some used as satellite sites for the hub and others closing altogether.
All of the children’s centres in Stratford District are run by a charity called The Parenting Project.
Tricia Elliot, who is one of the co-ordinators of the campaign against the closures and a mum herself, said this week: “Momentum is growing.
“It appears that the council thinks that all that goes on in these centres is mums having a natter over free tea and biscuits, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
“They are places where parents’ problems are evaluated and solved, they are so desperately needed.”
Children’s centres bring together child and family health services, parenting programmes, family support and links to training and employment advice, under one roof.
£10m cut from budget
The changes are largely as a result of the need to cut £10million from the children’s services budget over the next three years.
The proposed new Family Hubs will be spread throughout the county where there is the greatest identified need for family support: with one in North Warwickshire, four in Nuneaton and Bedworth, three in Rugby, and three in Warwick district, as well as the one in Stratford district.
The issue of children’s centres is not on the agenda of Tuesday’s meeting, but time is allocated to receiving petitions and public questions.
Cllr Jenny Fradgley (Lib Dem/Stratford West) has pointed to statutory guidance that says a children’s centre should not close as part of a reorganisation unless it can be demonstrated that the outcomes for children, particularly the most disadvantaged, would not be adversely affected.
She added: “It’s difficult to see how disadvantaged children won’t be affected by closing facilities in Stratford and replacing them with something in Alcester.”
Cllr Jeff Morgan (Cons, Bulkington and Whitestone), the county council’s portfolio holder for children’s services, said: “I want to be very clear that these proposals are not about stopping services.
“They are driven by a need to transform services.”
Public meetings will also be held where council staff will answer questions about the changes.
They take place at Holy Trinity Church in Stratford on Monday, 24th July, from 2.30pm to 4pm, and at the Jubilee Centre in Alcester on Wednesday, 2nd August, from 11.30am to 1pm.