Shocked parents turned up with their toddlers to a Sheffield nursery yesterday to be told it is to close in just weeks.
Mums and dads with youngsters at The Meadows nursery in Shirecliffe discovered it is to shut in September - leaving around 90 families scrambling to find new places for their children.
Angry couple Mark Humphries and Lisa Stringfellow immediately launched a petition to save the nursery, where their two-year-old son Rhys started only a month ago.
Lisa, of Standish Road, Shirecliffe, said: “We only just found out in the morning when I took Rhys to nursery.
“It’s unfair because we’ve got to race around now finding another place. I am disgusted. “Rhys has possibly got autism. He can get in distress quite easily and I need to get to him quickly. If I’ve got to walk far or get a bus to a new nursery it will be unfair on him.”
Parents said they were told earlier this year that the nursery - provided by the charity Action for Children on behalf of Sheffield Council – could close when the council withdrew a childcare subsidy following Government cuts of £3.3 million to Early Years education.
Funding is to be handed directly to nurseries by the Department of Education instead.
But parents said they were informed the nursery, based at The Meadows Children’s Centre on Shirecliffe Road, would stay open with a new provider. The children’s centre itself is unaffected.
Mum Louise Mackereth, 26, added: “We knew about problems with funding and were told it might be shutting, which we totally understood. But we were promised it was staying open under Watercliffe Meadows nursery.
“Now it’s going to be the first few people who get their kids in somewhere else. By tomorrow there aren’t going to be any places left.”
Sheffield Council said a new provider had been interested in running childcare provision at The Meadows, but that had ‘recently fallen through’.
“The council is working directly with parents to find alternative places for their children,” a spokeswoman added.
Patricia Hague, chair of Shirecliffe Tenants’ and Residents’ Association, said: “This is absolutely devastating for these mums and children.
“The nursery was one which catered for disabled children and there aren’t many that do. These children are going to have nowhere to go.”
Action for Children said it was unable to continue running The Meadows after the council earlier this year withdrew a childcare subsidy that part-funded the services.
The Early Days nursery in Parson Cross is also operated by Action for Children - but its future looks more secure after agreement was reached for Meynell Primary school to take over.
Carol Iddon, director of children’s services at Action for Children, added: “We have been working with the council to secure an alternative provider to take over the management and delivery of services at both nurseries.
“We understand this is progressing well for Early Days, however efforts to source a new provider for The Meadows have faltered and the council has taken the decision to discuss the possible closure of the nursery with parents.
“Our absolute priority is to support children, families and staff affected.”
The Sheffield Council spokeswoman said both nurseries will remain open as usual for now, and added Meynell Primary school has offered to step in and offer places for children from The Meadows too.