The proposed closure of Priory Children’s Centre in Ramsgate will mean the loss of the Explorers Nursery at the site.
The Thanet Early Years Project nursery provides care for children aged 3 months to 5 years and has been based at Priory CC since 2010.
The popular nursery is full to capacity and has 51 children on roll. There are 19 working families, of which 6 are receiving 30 hours free funding, and 2 families are undertaking training.
The remaining children are accessing Free Early Years Education (EYFE) with 15 children qualifying for Free for Two funding, due to the families being in receipt of benefits and or looking for work.
There are already 10 children on the waiting list for September 2023.
But the provision will be lost if Kent County Council plans to shut the site as part of a community services overhaul goes ahead.
Yesterday (January 17) a KCC consultation went live for public comment on plans to review 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.
In Thanet both Priory and Callis Grange children’s centres are facing closure with proposals to instead create ‘family hubs’ at some isle libraries and/or encourage people to use remaining centres in Margate and Ramsgate. Two adult hubs are also due to be relocated.
‘Devastating effect on Ramsgate community’
Thanet Early Years Project (TEYP) manager Kim Hammond says the team and families will fight to save the Explorers nursery and the services it provides.
She said: “The potential impact for the local families, current and future, to lose their chosen nursery provision would have a devastating effect on the Ramsgate community.
“Explorers Nursery provides care and education for children aged 3 months to 5 years and has been based at Priory CC since 2010. We cater not only for families living in deprivation and isolation, but we also support working families who rely on us so they can continue to work.
“TEYP understand that KCC have a need to save money and balance the budget, what we don’t understand is why Priory is being targeted when there is a nursery onsite with suitable outside space and wheelchair access.
“There are many other centres in Thanet whose closure would not have as big an impact to the locality, because as KCC explain, any services already taking place in the targeted centres will not be lost but relocated. Sadly, this does not include the nursery provision at Priory which will be lost. This makes no sense.
“One parent asked me today, ‘Where is the motivation to keep working if there is no local childcare provision?’ There is already a lack of suitable childcare places in Thanet.
“Explorers is a very popular nursery. In addition to the general care and education of the children, the nursery also works very closely with parents and agencies such as social services, speech and language, special educational needs and English as an additional language. This is a massive support system that these families will lose should the nursery be shut down due to the closure of Priory Children’s Centre.
“Thanet Early Years Project is a small charitable, not for profit, organisation established in 1987 which specialises in offering good quality, affordable childcare and education to children under the age of 5 years. Our aim is to provide services to children and families in order to afford all children the opportunity to reach their full potential and improve their outcomes.
“In addition, we must not forget the committed Explorers nursery staff – some have been with us for many years – and now potentially face an uncertain future.”
Thanet Early Years Project currently offers day care services at three different locations in Ramsgate with a fourth due to open shortly, plus a creche service.
Three settings are within local Children’s Centres and one at Ellington Infant School.
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.
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.
“I am concerned also that there is no consultation in Ramsgate. Both Thanet’s consultations are in the Margate area. I wrote to KCC leader Roger Gough on 12th January seeking a consultation meeting in Ramsgate. I’m still waiting for a reply.”
Callis Grange Children’s Centre is Broadstairs is also under threat of closure.
Broadstairs parent and teaching assistant Joanne Bright spoke out against that proposal yesterday and is urging people to share their disapproval via the consultation. Resident Jenny Matterface has launched a petition in a bid to save that centre.
She said: “In the past this centre has enabled people to get qualifications they could use to obtain work. In the last few years focus has shifted to other centres and this one has been allowed to become run down. As the current crisis continues to bite families need an accessible centre for support.”
Changes are subject to feedback from the public and a 10-week public consultation is now running. Kent County Council says no decisions have been made and all options are at proposal stage only.
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