Members of Unite will be joining campaigners and concerned families on Sunday (May 14) for a picnic protest over Medway council’s plans to close 19 Sure Start centres and axe up to 50 staff across the Medway Towns.
The picnic protest, taking place between 11am and 3pm in the grounds of Rochester castle, comes as Medway council prepares to begin a six week consultation over the closure programme which will see 19 Sure Start children’s centres replaced by four ‘super hubs’.
Campaigners are concerned the loss of the local centres will restrict access to services and leave some of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged ‘out in the cold.’
The centres provide a vital lifeline for children and families in the early years, offering a range of services to people from all backgrounds from health visiting, speech and language therapy, to social services early help provision, mental health support and domestic abuse services.
Medway Council is understood to be seeking to save a million pounds amid cuts to local government funding by central government.
“Established by the last Labour government, Sure Start centres are a vital resource for families, helping give children the best start in life,” said Unite regional officer Kathy Walters. “Yet thanks to savage Conservative cuts to local government budgets, cash strapped councils are being forced to consider cutting this vital life-line which families rely on.
“We urge Medway council to think again and step back from these cuts which will restrict access to an essential community service and leave some of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged out in the cold.”
Local mum and organiser of the picnic protest Lexa Chatfield added,“Sure Start centres are not only vital for children, they are vital to the wellbeing of families. They provide a safe space for education, support and play. Without them we risk isolating mums and babies in their homes when all they need is somewhere to meet local mums or meet staff who can help them with whatever they are going through.
“The staff at each centre are incredibly valuable to the community and key to providing the stepping stone of early intervention to ensure families can access the help or support they need.
“This service needs to be local,” Chatfield went on to say. “A big reason why they have been so successful is because families can access them easily as they are just a five to 10 minute walk away.
“We have big concerns that this just won’t work for the proposed super hubs and that families won’t be able to access this important service people from all walks of life rely on.”