Children’s groups closure anguish - six workers face axe

Gutted: Parents Kerry Wraith, Wendy Lawless and Michelle Hadley with their kids who attend the  clubs.
Gutted: Parents Kerry Wraith, Wendy Lawless and Michelle Hadley with their kids who attend the clubs.
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A COMMUNITY centre that has looked after kids on a Sheffield estate for 30 years is to close its children’s groups next week, as diminishing funds dry up.

The Flower Estate Community Association runs after-school clubs and playgroups for nearly 40 children in Wincobank, and has a long waiting list.

The charity gives working parents somewhere they know their children are safe after school and a place for younger toddlers to learn vital skills before they start at nearby Hinde House Primary.

But all that will come to an end on Thursday, when the community association closes its doors to youngsters for the last time, leaving six staff members out of a job.

June Smith, chair of the association, said the charities which have funded the organisation for so long have been given less money in recent years: “I have never felt so helpless and despondent. For the last 30 years we have struggled through fire, flood and theft.

“We have been autonomous for the last 15 years and have sought and administered our own funds as a voluntary organisation.

“But now it seems funds have dried up. It feels that if you don’t have a gun and a knife problem in your area there’s no money for you any more.”

Mum-of-four Wendy Lawless, aged 42, from the Flower Estate, said the community association allows her to volunteer at Firth Park Advice Centre in the evenings.

She added: “The staff pick up my two girls, who are five and seven, from school.

“I know they are safe and looked after, meaning I can spend time at the advice centre.

“They have helped my children so much. My youngest was so timid but they have really helped her confidence.”

When the clubs close Michelle Hadley, 31, from Shiregreen, will have to change her shifts at the solicitors where she works as a legal secretary.

“My sons Ryan and Conor go there every day after school,” she said. “They love it there.”

Kerry Wraith, 23, from the Flower Estate, said: “I’m gutted. Sending my three-year-old Kyle there gives me some time to myself. It has been a godsend.”

The association has had 70 applications for funding rejected in the past 12 months.

They are now awaiting the results of an application to Children in Need which, if successful, will allow them to re-open in mid-May and will fund them for three years.

Mrs Smith said: “But if it is rejected we will have to lay off six trained staff. We will only be able to open one day a week, for our over-50s group and the children on the estate will have nowhere to go.

“As far as I am concerned we have pre-empted David Cameron’s ‘Big Society’ for the last 30 years.

“I know that we are only a small cog in the grand scheme of things, but we are a vital cog for the children on the Flower Estate.”