‘Protect our area’s one great asset’

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AS A mum of three young children, Helen McGowan is horrified that Darnall could lose its children’s centre, which she feels is the area’s one big asset.

“We live in Darnall and a lot of provision for families is not great.

“We don’t have successful schools and, although we like living here, it isn’t a fantastic neighbourhood to live in all the time.

“Darnall Children’s Centre is the one thing in the community that actively makes a difference.

“They do lots of free activities, including the Ready, Steady Go group for children with delayed development.

“Darnall doesn’t have anything else.”

Helen, a full-time mum to Finlay, aged five, Rory, three, and Eliza, one, says she wouldn’t consider sending her two younger children to another nursery if the centre closes.

But she knows that lots of other parents don’t have the luxury of staying at home with their kids.

Her husband, Jon, is a primary school teacher.

“Lots of mums would struggle. There’s not many childminders in this area. Lots of people are worried about work.”

She said that the nursery is open from 8am to 6pm, so parents can easily drop their children off before and after work.

Helen, a member of the children’s centre management committee, says that school nurseries generally don’t offer that sort of flexibility.

She said that other parents really praise Ready Steady go, which has made a big difference to their kids.

“The centre run it for free with their own staff. People’s kids have made developmental progress.

“One woman said her son wouldn’t be talking without it. He wasn’t talking when he went along to the group.”

She knows that Finlay went off to Acres Hill Primary School a far more confident little boy than when he arrived at the nursery.

Helen fears that the council consultation will prove a waste of time. She dismisses the online questionnaire as full of loaded questions that don’t allow for dissenting views.

“The council don’t seem to be listening. A lot of the work that the centres do is going to be damaged. They will keep going but will not be as thriving as they are now.”

Helen added: “They have to save money. I understand that, but I’d rather they saved it from the services that aren’t great.

“Anything with an outstanding assessment needs to be protected because we don’t have a lot of them.

“They’re making blanket decisions without looking at what gems they have around the city.”