“Cllr Roger Truelove’s hard work has really paid off in saving Woodgrove children’s centre from closing in Sittingbourne, now we need to look to the children’s centres on Sheppey”
says Guy Nicholson our 2015 General Election Candidate
The eight children’s centres in Sittingbourne and Sheppey are to remain open. Welcome news as there is little doubt about the value of the role they play in supporting parents and pre school children. On a recent visit to Ladybird children’s centre in Rushenden a parent described the difference between a child starting at Primary School that had been to a children’s centre and one that hadn’t. The former was ready for school and had a great head start over the latter.
Kent County Council have also emphasised the clear advantages of children’s centres and the positive impact they have on people’s lives. I am sure it was with a very heavy heart that they embarked on a journey that has led to closing 12 out of 23 centres across Kent.
A Labour Government developed the Sure Start programme with children’s centres at the heart of the initiative. There to provide parents and carers with the support and advice to give their kids the best possible start in life. David Cameron came into Government in 2010 saying he would back Sure Start. There are now 578 fewer children’s centres and the overall national budget has been cut from £1.46bn in 2010 to £854m in 2013-14. An odd way of showing your support for something.
Unfortunately we have not emerged from these cuts unscathed. On Sheppey two children’s centres are to have their opening hours reduced from 40 hours a week to 18 hours. They are Lilypad in Minster and Beaches in Leysdown. A total of 831 children used these two centres to the year ending September 2012, a not insignificant number.
The need for Beaches children’s centre alone becomes clear when you realise it serves a community were 39% of children are officially living in poverty. Recently we exposed another shocking truth that the average life expectancy for someone growing up in Leysdown is 10 years less than that of someone in Iwade on the other side of the crossings.
Cllr Angela Harrison, our County Councillor for Sheerness, introduced me to the team at Seashells children’s centre in Sheerness. We spoke at length about the future of children’s centres, there important role in the community and how with the right approach we could keep our local centres not only fully open tackling child poverty and supporting parents, but also expand the pre school offer.
Expanding that offer is going to be crucial for the future, a Labour Government in 2015 is not only committed to the future of children’s centres but increasing the provision of free childcare to 25 hours a week for all 3 and 4 year olds in working families.