Family Matters: Fighting to keep childcare cheap and accessible

Parents petitioning outside the Town Hall to save Sheffield's Early Years service
Parents petitioning outside the Town Hall to save Sheffield's Early Years service
Share this article
Have your say

One of a group of parents of children at community nurseries in Sheffield who are going to court to challenge Sheffield City Council’s decision to cut funding for the service has spoken about why she is taking part in the action.

The mum, who cannot be named by order of the Manchester High Court which is hearing the case, said she was angry that the cuts were going to affect her and other users of nurseries. Four parents, represented by Sheffield Law Service, are demanding a judicial review of the decision.

The mum has two children including has a son aged two and uses the nursery while she completes a further education course in the same building on the Manor.

She said: “If the nursery had to close there it would cut down the number of parents and carers who are able to attend the training centre.

“Every time I’m walking around the Manor and Arbourthorne at the moment and I see a young woman having a baby, I feel awful for her, even if she’s got a job or her partner does. There’s not going to be anywhere for her to put her child.”

She added: “This is for others who are going to use the service, not just now and for the next couple of years. Nurseries that have had their budgets reduced will ultimately be looking at shutting down. They’ve only been funded for nine months. It’s not just about the effect it’s going to have on individuals.”

She said: “This is not just about the four service users who are asking for the judicial review. That’s not what this issue is about. It’s can you provide long-term, affordable, accessible childcare for hard-to-reach areas of the community. The answer if these cuts go ahead is no, no matter how the council try to word it.”

The mum said that she is studying for a level three IT qualification to try to find better-paid jobs than she has had in the past. Her course finishes after the funding runs out and she has been unable to find any other accessible childcare for her son. She fears she will have to give up the course.

She added: “I want to make things better for me and my family. I don’t want to go back into jobs like cleaning or working behind a till, although I have the utmost respect for anyone who does those jobs.

“I don’t want to have to do that again so I’m trying to get decent qualifications.

“The council are not living up to their promise of having a good-value, accessible service for young children in this city. It’s a pledge they’ve made and not stuck to it.”

This is the latest move in a hard-fought campaign by nurseries and users to oppose the cuts. There have been protests and demonstrations and 10,000 people signed a petition, the largest ever handed in to the city council.

The mum said: “It’s good to me that Sheffield Law Centre are fighting our corner. It could be the case that nothing changes at the end of this judicial review but at least we’ve tried to fight it.”

Douglas Johnson, from Sheffield Law Centre, said: “We have given the council every opportunity to respond and to make good on its promises to arrange action plans for each of the nurseries so that we could avoid the need for court proceedings. The parents are now left with no other option but to ask the court to intervene.”

Sally Pearse, of Tinsley Green Nursery, said: “The withdrawal of this funding will leave our working and training parents with no support and will leave young children with disabilities with no local provision. The cuts fall on the individuals and communities who need most support. We hope this legal action will make them look again at these unfair proposals.”