Protestors rally over cuts threat in Sheffield

Protestors took to the streets of Sheffield to oppose cuts to children's centres.
Protestors took to the streets of Sheffield to oppose cuts to children's centres.
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PARENTS, toddlers and staff from children’s centres across Sheffield are looking to launch a legal challenge to council cuts.

Hundreds of demonstrators showed they were prepared for battle as they took to the city centre to protest against Sheffield Council’s decision to cut early years services.

Youngsters and grown-ups from the children’s centres facing the axe armed themselves with placards and banners and took their fight to the streets.

Some £3.5 million is to go from the children’s centre budget, while Government cash paid to the council to fund nurseries is instead being paid to providers directly, based on how many youngsters enrol.

Protesters predict this will spell the closure of 20 of Sheffield’s 36 Sure Start centres and a further 20 not-for-profit early years service providers.

Seeches from supporters were delivered on the footsteps of Sheffield Town Hall, where Abitsam Mohommed, from the Community Childcare Forum, said legal proceedings have been launched.

She said: “The basis of the challenge consists of breaches by Sheffield Council in regard to the Equality Act 2010 and specifically in regard to the council’s failings of giving due regard to protected equalities characteristic groups and serious failings too in consultation.”

One of the centres which could close, as part of what campaigners have described as a ‘cull’, is Sheffield Children’s Centre, which has been rated outstanding by education watchdogs Ofsted and won praise from politicians.

Jennifer Bush, a parent from Manor Community Children’s Centre and Sheffield Children’s Centre, said: “As a lone parent with two children, attending training to increase my qualifications to gain better access to employment, the childcare support is absolutely essential to allowing me to attend and to benefit the children too.

“If these community children’s centres close, then lone parents and those in employment or training will be forced to give up their jobs and training,

“This is counterproductive to the economy and every policy to support working parents and those moving from benefits into work.”

Megan Beardsmore, from Primrose Children’s Centre, Upperthorpe, said: “The council says they have no choice, but they do and they do set priorities.”