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Cuts to Brent's children's centres planned

PUBLISHED: 11:42 10 February 2011

Concerned mums at Wykeham Children's Centre have hit out at plans to axe many of its services

Concerned mums at Wykeham Children's Centre have hit out at plans to axe many of its services

Jonathan Goldberg 07958 229 037

Planned Sure Start Centres in Cricklewood, Kingsbury and Sudbury will not go ahead if the proposals are voted through

Three planned children’s centres will be scrapped while others face deep cuts to services and staff under proposals to slash £2.25million from early year’s education.

Brent Council will reduce the number of centres – which offer a range of services to families including parenting support and help with finding a job – it has direct responsibility for, from 20 to ten.

Planned Sure Start Centres in Cricklewood, Kingsbury and Sudbury will not go ahead, and centres at Wykeham, Preston Park and Mount Stewart will be stripped of many of their services and responsibility for them could be transferred to the schools where they are located, if the shake up is voted through.

Staff across Brent’s 20 centres have been warned of redundancies as the council moves towards a new ‘locality working’ model, which will see employees pooled and work across a number of sites, and their numbers halved.

Concerned parents have hit out at the proposals, which they say will take vital resources away from some of the borough’s neediest families.

Hele Haynes, of Dawpool Road, Neasden, attends the Wykeham centre with her two-year-old daughter, where 72 per cent of under fives are living in the 30 per cent Lower Layer Super Output Area – a key deprivation measure.

Parents have been told that all Sure Start services will cease at the centre from March 31, and it is unclear what services will be reinstated.

She said: “The centre is excellent and staff are friendly, loyal, hard working and are dedicating to providing quality care and support to the families, carers and children.

“It is like a little family and it will be sad to see it falls apart it is the staff there who make it what it is.”

Margaret Bromham, of Crest Road, also visits the centre with her toddler and baby. She says that cutting sure start services deals families in Neasden a ‘double blow’ as it follows the announcement that Neasden library, which runs a weekly under five’s session, is due to close in April.

She added: “The centre is a lifeline for people to connect and have a life outside their home.”

Parents at the centre have launched a petition to keep it in its current form.

Elsewhere, children’s centres have put up the cost of their nursery places to claw back funding. At the Willow’s Children’s Centre in Chalkhill parents say they are struggling with higher charges, introduced in September.

Mum-of-one Audrey Rose, who receives family tax credits, said: “My fees have gone up almost 20 per cent to £200 a week. It is really expensive and I am struggling to cope.”

This latest round of cuts come after the early years budget was chopped by £2m last year, and a further £1m of savings will be announced in the coming months.

Krutika Pau, Brent Council’s director of children and families, said: “The proposals will deliver savings but allow some services to be provided to those most vulnerable families in the borough, albeit at a reduced level.”

Councillors will vote on the proposals later this month.

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