Children’s centres’ plea to Sheffield council over closures

Protestors marching through Sheffield to oppose cuts to children's centres.
Protestors marching through Sheffield to oppose cuts to children's centres.
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EMOTIONS ran high as parents and staff from Sheffield’s children’s centres urged the council to rethink its overhaul of services.

Impassioned pleas calling for a rethink on proposals to cut funding to early years providers were delivered to Sheffield Council’s Children, Young People and Family Support scrutiny committee at the Town Hall.

Campaigners claim the proposed re-structure – which would see 36 children’s centres reduced to 17 children’s centre ‘areas’ – will leave working parents without childcare.

The controversial plans were drawn up after a Government cut of £6.8 million to Sheffield’s Early Intervention Grant. The council is looking to withdraw subsidies from 20 providers in the city.

The council has stressed that no decisions will be made until after consultation ends on January 31, but the owners of nurseries and service providers have said they will be unable to continue amid financial uncertainty. Nursery owners and service providers say vulnerability notices have already been served to employees across the city.

Mandy Kettlebrough, manager at Wybourn and Woodthorpe children’s centres, said: “This needs serious consideration. There are nine places for nought to two-year-olds at Woodthorpe which allows 13 parents to go out to work. If these are removed it will have a real impact on those people. These places were subsidised because nobody wanted to deliver childcare as a business in those areas because it was not profitable.”

Linda Edwards, manager of Darnall Community Nursery, accused the council of putting the future of its own services before others.

She said: “Sheffield Council should be working with the people who care for families day in, day out. They are the people who can see if children are not eating properly or haven’t got clothes. That is real early intervention.”

Coun Colin Ross, who sits on the committee, said: “There is a danger of some provision collapsing and that would be a real tragedy.”