Break-up of children’s centre has ruined Christmas, say mums

SO SAD -- angry mum Alice Grice with her two-year-old daughter, Eleanor -- DISPIC NHUD11-3419-2.
SO SAD -- angry mum Alice Grice with her two-year-old daughter, Eleanor -- DISPIC NHUD11-3419-2.

A SHOCK decision to break up a popular SureStart children’s centre in Hucknall has ruined Christmas for youngsters and their families, it is claimed.

The Market Place centre is designed to offer play for disadvantaged children — to give them a brighter start in life — and also support for parents who are cash-strapped.

However Notts County Council has taken the step to make drastic changes to the service, which is run from the John Godber Centre on Ogle Street.

The council says staff will be transferred to the High Leys Children’s Centre on the campus of Annie Holgate Junior School and services will continue to be run from a variety of venues around the town.

But bemused Hucknall mums insist the centre has been shut down and look set to join councillors in a protest campaign.

Alice Grice, who is a regular user of the Market Place centre with her two-year-old daughter, Eleanor, said: “This is a closure and no amount of smoke and mirrors is going to hide the fact.”

Alice (31), of Belvoir Street, says the centre provides a “brilliant service” that includes everything from messy play for toddlers to health walks for new mums — plus advice on benefits and hunting for jobs.

She said: “As a parent of a young child, I am incredibly dismayed by the closure. I am almost equally dismayed that the council haven’t seen fit to be honest with parents about the plans.”

The county council insists a consultation has taken place.

But Alice claimed this was done at short notice and that decisions had already been taken about the future of the centre.

“It seems to me they have purely paid lip-service to the process of consulting parents and that these decisions were made some time ago,” she added.

Furious councillor Ian Morrison (Lab), a Hucknall member of Ashfield District Council, has called on parents to unite against the decision.

He slammed the Tory-led county council, which previously made assurances that SureStart services in the town wouldn’t be cut.

“I can find no words befitting of county councillors who have voted to close SureStart services at the John Godber Centre,” said Coun Morrison.

“I ask the question: when is a closure not a cut in services? I am absolutely appalled. Parents, carers and people whose jobs are put at risk because of these policies must protest in every way possible.

“The Tories must have a sick twist of what Christmas means to all men, women and children at this time of year.”

The Market Place children’s centre is one of three SureStart venues in Hucknall. As well as the one at High Leys, there is Butlers Hill and Broomhill centre on Broomhill Road.

In a detailed response to the furore, the county council’s group manager for early years and early intervention, Justine Gibling, said: “The Market Place Children’s Centre is NOT closing.

“Early-years services across Hucknall are being reviewed in light of future needs. As a result, opportunities for families to access support will improve.

“The use of the John Godber Centre for a staff base will end. Instead they will work from either one of the two other children’s centres in the town or from the Interchange Young People’s Centre, off Linby Road.

“This maximises resources for delivering services to the community to ensure that children, young people and their families get best value from the service.

“Families will continue to receive children’s centre services in their home, health settings, schools and community venues, such as Hucknall Library and the Interchange. Some groups will also continue to be delivered from the John Godber Centre.

“There has been extensive consultation with families who use the centre and the large majority of them are in favour of such changes. The children’s centre co-ordinator has produced a comprehensive report which details the consultation process, the questionnaire results and the focus-group responses.

“The focus group is currently working on designing new timetables which will come into effect next year.”