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‘Our services are being decimated’: Cuts hit children’s centres in Stockport – cutting off ‘lifelines’ for new mums

By Kimberley Richards & Oliver Rhodes

Downgrading children’s centres are potentially cutting off a lifeline for new mums, according to a parenting expert.

Stockport councillors approved £28million of spending cuts at their annual budget meeting this week – with approximately 300 council job cuts also under the hammer.

Families across the borough may soon be faced with struggles to find reasonable childcare – with Reddish Vale, Ladybridge Park and Bredbury and Goyt Valley Children’s Centres named as those most at risk.

The co-founder of the UK’s largest parenting site Netmums.com, Sally Russell, said: “A recent study on Netmums found that over half of parents accept the need for austerity measures and to pay down the deficit.

 “While wielding the axe to make cuts causes difficulties wherever it falls, it is especially damaging to vital frontline services, children’s centres and Sure Start centres are a lifeline for new mums and are often the hub of the local community.

“Spending time with other mums has been shown to cut the risk of post-natal depression and help with the development and socialization of young children giving them a better start in life – yet in areas like Manchester the services are being decimated.”

Working families are expected to be the hardest hit through the plans to downgrade some Sure Start Children’s Centres in Stockport from ‘hub’ centres to ‘satellite’ centres.

If the centres were to be downgraded to ‘satellite’ status services would be minimised and management streamlined.

Ms Russell said: “While these cuts may save money on the balance sheet for this year, many experts fear cutting support for parents will end up costing much more for local councils in the long-run, in terms of supporting parents and troubled families who can no longer access essential help.”

The proposals have come under great scrutiny from Stockport’s Labour Council and the Reddish Labour party posted their anger at the decisions on their Facebook page.

Councillor Andrew Verdeille, Leader of Stockport Labour Group, said: “Fully-functioning children’s centres have made a huge amount of difference to thousands of lives across Stockport since the last Labour Government introduced them.

“I know myself the fantastic work that is done at the Reddish Vale Centre which serves some of the most deprived areas of the Borough.

“It is an appalling way to treat people and if it wasn’t for the Labour Group going through every page of these documents who knows when residents would have been told about this decision.” 

Leader of the Stockport Council, Sue Derbyshire, said cuts were necessary due to severe cuts from central government, and the council based its proposal with aim of maintaining front-line services.

Councillor Kevin Dowling, Stockport Council’s Executive Member for Children and Young People, added the plans for downgrading the three children’s centres remain provisional.  

“The Council is committed to providing the best possible services for all young children in Stockport and has kept all its children’s centres open,” he said.  

“The consultation will be an opportunity for parents/centre users to give their views regarding a proposed re-configuration of children’s centres in these areas, which may result in three more children’s centres becoming satellites.

“Our intention is to continue to deliver a range of children’s centres services across these areas, with a focus on those families in the greatest need of support.  The results of the consultation will be reported to the Council Executive to inform decision making in July.”

Picture courtesy of Terriseesthings, with thanks.

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