Funding fears for Sheffield childcare centres

Protest outside Sheffield Town Hall against children's centre closures
Protest outside Sheffield Town Hall against children's centre closures
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More than 10,000 people signed the biggest petition ever presented to a full meeting of Sheffield Council opposing changes to how childcare is funded.

Sheffield’s children’s centres will no longer be paid funding from the council, and will instead be paid directly by the Government based on enrolment.

Emma Chadwick and Sally Pearse, who handed in 10,000 signature petition against cuts to children's centres

Emma Chadwick and Sally Pearse, who handed in 10,000 signature petition against cuts to children's centres

But there is anxiety about how centres will cope and requests have been made for the council to provide extra funding to help sites keep going during the transition this summer.

Councillors were told some centres fear they will have to close and have already given notice to staff.

The petition was handed in by Emma Chadwick and Sally Pearse.

Ms Pearse, of Tinsley Children’s Centre, said: “Childcare offered at these centres is often the only option for some families - Tinsley has no alternative provision.

“Without such centres, families would have no option but to stay off the employment ladder.”

Ms Chadwick added: “Childcare providers want to work with the council.”

She called for the council to bid for lottery funding to help children’s centres cope with the change.

Numerous members of the public also spoke.

Professor Pat Broadhead, Sheffield’s council-appointed Early Years Champion, added: “Support for children in early years matters. We have to retain that infrastructure.

“If established children’s centres close, the private sector cannot provide an alternative.”

Coun Colin Ross, opposition Liberal Democrat education spokesman, said: “Children’s centres need support from the council to help them through the changes.”

Coun Jackie Drayton, cabinet member responsible, said: “We will work with organisations to help them adapt and make their business models more sustainable.”

A separate, 5,000-signature petition was presented by Stocksbridge residents opposing closure of the town’s leisure centre due to budget cuts.

Coun Isbobel Bowler, cabinet member for culture and sport, said: “The site and buildings are held by a trust and the council is the trustee. We will look at transfer of the site to Stocksbridge Town Council.

“We are in discussions with them about the future of the centre.”