Callis Grange children’s centre in Broadstairs and Priory children’s centre in Ramsgate are facing closure as part of Kent County Council (KCC) plans to save £6million by changing the way it provides community services.
Courses at Broadstairs Adult Education Centre are earmarked to end with a relocation to Broadstairs library and services for adults with learning disabilities will no longer be held at Hartsdown Leisure Centre but will be moved to proposed ‘community hub’ sites.
Kent County Council says it is reviewing its community services. These include children’s centres and youth hubs, health visiting services and counselling for young people, services for adults with learning disabilities and council gateways.
Proposals include co-location of facilities, particularly in library buildings, new Family Hubs with multiple services for youngsters aged 0-19, more flexible outreach activities, reducing the number of permanent buildings and making the most of digital technologies. The aim is to reduce costs and carbon footprint and help balance the council’s budget. KCC faces a £50m budget deficit over the next year and the current backlog of maintenance costs on council buildings sits at £165m.
The proposals that affect Thanet are:
Shutting Callis Grange Children’s Centre with people directed to use Six Bells centre in Margate instead. For health visiting services people would need to go to the remaining children’s centres or use outreach services.
Shutting Priory Children’s Centre with alternatives of using a new proposed Community Hub at Ramsgate Library or going to Newlands Children’s Centre or Six Bells Children’s Centre.
Shutting services for adults with a learning disability currently held at Hartsdown Leisure Centre with nearest alternatives to be proposed hubs at Broadstairs and Cliftonville libraries or using Minnis Day Centre.
The closure of services at Broadstairs Adult Education Centre which will be relocated to Broadstairs library.
There will be community hub services running at some Thanet libraries.
Ramsgate Library – Family Hub, Library and Gateway
Cliftonville Library – Community Services for Adults with Learning Disabilities, Gateway and Library
Broadstairs Library – Community Services for Adults with Learning Disabilities, Library and Community Learning and Skills.
Broadstairs mum Joanne Bright, who works in a Thanet school, says she is shocked at news that Callis children’s centre is facing closure and is calling for it to be saved.
She said: “As a mother who also works in education, I have experienced the benefits of Sure Start centres as a vital source of health and family support. I was shocked to hear our local centre adjacent to Callis Grange school in the Beacon Road Ward is at risk of closure.
“Sure Start centres were introduced by the Labour Government in 1998, with the aim of giving children the best possible start in life. Despite having a positive impact on the health and social mobility of families, as well as contributing to children’s healthy development, Sure Start centres have suffered considerably under Tory funding cuts and since 2010, over 1300 centres have been forced to close.
“I consider myself lucky I had access to a local Sure Start centre when my children were small because the opportunities and support I was offered were invaluable for my babies’ development and for giving me the confidence to navigate the challenges of new motherhood.
“My Sure Start centre provided stimulating baby groups, and regular access to health professionals. It was a welcoming space to socialise with other parents and I would have been lost without it. I think it’s a travesty if this vital facility is denied to the families in our ward.
“As a member of support staff in a school, I understand the benefits of early years services on a child’s development. I have no doubt the closure of our local Sure Start centre will have a negative impact on the chances of some of my future pupils, which is why we must fight to save it.
“At a time when rising poverty is fuelling demand for family support services in Thanet, Kent County Council needs to urgently invest in our Callis Grange Sure Start Centre, not shut it down.
“A consultation about the future of our centre is planned soon. I urge people to put their views forward so we can save this essential service.”
A petition to save the Callis Grange centre has been launched by resident Jenny Matterface.
Kent County Council Leader Roger Gough said: “Residents value our community services and change is difficult. However, we do need to look to adapt and evolve to make the best use of the resources and funding we have available and safeguard against rising costs.
“This Community Service Model is an opportunity to use all of our knowledge and information to ensure services are where they most need to be, having the most positive impact and reaching people in the most effective way to complement and enhance how they are choosing to live in Kent.
“The scope is significant but it has to be. Changes would mean we would have a more manageable and affordable number of buildings across Kent, which would help us to continue providing services for people in a variety of ways.”
Ramsgate county councillor Karen Constantine said she is concerned about the Priory centre changes.
She said: “I’m deeply concerned about these cuts and changes. Priory Children’s Centre is being moved into Ramsgate Library. Where is the outside play space? Will the children have the same degree of freedom to play – which is important to a children’s development- as in a purpose built centre.
Margate county councillor Barry Lewis said: “Kent County Council wants a 5% increase in council tax from hard-pressed residents yet is considering cutting vital social services such as children’s centres and adult community hubs.”
Changes are subject to feedback from the public and a 10-week public consultation begins today (January 17) .
Kent County Council says no decisions have been made and all options are at proposal stage only. Staff are also asked for their views on the new-look map of services, as well as partners who work alongside the council in delivering services.
You can learn more about proposed changes www.kent.gov.uk/communityservicesconsultation
Views can be submitted from now until March 26.
People can also attend drop-in events
Monday 30 January 10am-1pm Margate Library, Cecil Street, Margate
Monday 20 February 4-8pm Six Bells Family Centre, 201 High Street, Margate