5,000 names in fight to save Sheffield children’s centres

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CAMPAIGNERS fighting to save children’s centres in Sheffield have collected more than 5,000 signatures after taking their protest to the city’s streets.

Parents, staff and toddlers from the 20 centres facing the axe drummed up support by setting up a station outside Sheffield Town Hall.

Their activities culminated in a demonstration on Saturday involving union representatives and anti-cuts campaigners.

The 5,000 names are now enough to trigger a full debate into the council’s decision to withdraw funding from April from a group of its 36 Sure Start centres, many of which are in deprived areas.

Council bosses blame their decision on the Government’s £6.8 million reduction in grants for early years services for 2013/14.

Sally Pearse, campaign organiser, said: “We had to get 5,000 signatures to get a full council debate.

“We’ve already passed that figure but we wanted to keep up the protest at the Town Hall to show this campaign will not go away - we will be there every day this week too.”

Sally, who works with the under-threat centre in Tinsley, added: “Tinsley is a multi-cultural community where many of the centre’s users are bilingual.

“We have a 60-place day nursery for children, and we run adult training and health activities. There are no other nurseries in this community at all. There is no other support for working parents.”

A consultation to discuss the plans is being held at Shiregreen Children’s Centre today and next Friday, January 25. Each session runs from 9am to 4pm.

And the GMB union is preparing a report on the proposals, to be submitted to councillors later this month.

It says vulnerable youngsters will suffer the most, and is calling on the council to postpone the planned changes, carry out further consultations, and assess the impact.