Sure Start children centres across Rugby are set to have their budgets cut by 40 per cent in next year’s budget.
Some play sessions across the county have already been cut as centres struggle to absorb this year’s 7.9 per cent cut, the equivalent of 15 per cent allowing for cost increases. The centres provide child care, advice and support for parents and are focused on children from a disadvantaged backgrounds, but are open to all parents and young children.
Aisha Hussain, a mother from Lawford, has used Sure Start Centres since her 21-month old son Milo was born and said they had been invaluable.
“I think a lot of parents will be very worried when they hear about this. The Sure Start centres offer such a good service and if they had to stop services then loads of children and their parents across Rugby would suffer,” she said.
“It can be very lonely for first time mums and through Sure Start Milo and I have met so many good friends we otherwise simply wouldn’t have. Milo’s also learnt all sorts of vital social skills like how to share and socialise that he wouldn’t have learnt otherwise.
“What the Sure Start centre has given us is invaluable.
She added: “To pay for the services the centres provide privately would cost a small fortune. Instead they just ask for a small donation from mums of 50 pence so nobody’s priced out.
“If services ended up being cut by 40 per cent in line with the budget then the parents and children would suffer hugely.”
Emma Sobalski told the Advertiser via Facebook that any closures would be tragic.
“Please support local Sure Start centres because they need attendance. Not many children’s centres that offer these services any more and it will be a tragedy if they close.
“Claremont children’s centre is fantastic for us and the parents that use it.”
Sarah Beaufoy added: “I volunteer at a Sure Start centre and it’s a lifeline for a lot of families. They now have to do a lot of extra fund raising to provide and pay for trips and activities over the school holidays.”
Warwickshire County Council has said it will continue to target resources at the parents of children who are considered most in need.
Sarah Callaghan, head of learning and achievement at Warwickshire County Council said: “We cannot get away from the fact that significant savings need to be made to the way centres continue to be funded, reflecting the tough financial challenges local authorities are facing nationally.
“We have to rethink how we work and prioritise our more vulnerable families, so will be reviewing the way we provide children’s centre services from 2014/15.”
She added: “This requires a number of decisions to be made around how services can be delivered in sustainable ways in the future.
“We will proactively target those in greatest need whilst, through strong partnership working, maintaining a level of support networks in the community.”
According to the council, 95 per cent of its children’s centres are rated good or outstanding by Ofsted.