Many parents are calling on the Town Hall to safeguard children’s centres after it emerged they could face closures in 2011.
Because of our national financial situation the council cannot guarantee the futures of 21 centres after the end of the financial year in April 2011, causing concern among parents with children aged five and under in the borough.
The Newstead Centre in Fallows Close, East Finchley, recently had £1m spent on it during a refurbishment programme and has been judged as ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted – yet still may be under threat as the council looks to cut services to save cash.
Jenny Borst, whose two-year-old son Tom has recently joined the centre, says for younger children the drop in sessions helps both child and parent.
She said: “It not only helps younger children get used to socialising and prepare them for school, it also provides great support for parents. You can come in for a session and there are plenty of toys and books for your children to use.”
Mother of two Cheryl Connell, has used the centre for her oldest daughter Alice (aged 4) for 18 months, and Mrs Connell hopes Alice’s sister Sophie will also be able to join next year. She said: “Alice has formed strong bonds with the staff and children. She has benefited academically, psychologically and socially – we have watched her self-confidence blossom here.
Channelling funds into areas where the council believe the people are in more need is laudable, but the idea that East Finchley is only home to middle class parents who could afford private childcare is wrong. This centre caters for people from all sections of the local community. Barnet Council has to safeguard these centres, even if funding from central government dries up.
The Newstead Centre is exceptional as, in addition, it does vital work for children with special needs – the supposed savings of closing centres like these simply don’t make sense. As well as giving our children the best start in life, it helps people in tough circumstances go out to work and not be a burden on the tax payer. The decision to cut any of these children’s centres would simply be wrong.