When asked about this in the press, you have, on more than one occasion in the last few weeks, said this should not happen. Jim Leivers, director for children, education and families at Oxfordshire County Council has said that £62m has been raised from the sale of unused council property. Apparently this is not going to be used for services. What is it being used for exactly?
£16m a year currently runs 44 children’s centres and seven early intervention hubs for older children.
I think that’s fantastic value for money. Our local children’s centres are rated highly by Ofsted and do amazing work to protect all vulnerable families, regardless of their financial status or level of need.
Vulnerability and isolation is common in young families and to take these universal services away would be a ticking financial time bomb. The extra work for social services, the NHS and police will be vast. Many extra families will need professional involvement from these services, services that have already been cut to the bone by ‘austerity.’
You agree your conservative colleagues at Oxfordshire County Council are wrong to do this, yet you have done nothing to save these frontline services. I am frankly baffled. If you believe children’s centres are a frontline service that should be protected, why have you not protected their funding?
Your local children’s centre in Chipping Norton and those of your constituents in Witney will be lost if you do not act. Families that are using these services, working to better their communities and receiving support to be strong, independent parents will suffer. This is my story.
When my child was born, I had been in a violent and abusive relationship for the best part of a decade. I’m pretty sure one of the only ways I coped for so long was working many hours a week in a job I loved. When I found myself at home with my abuser 24-7 and a new baby my mental health plummeted quickly.
I was sleepwalking through a nightmare that I couldn’t get away from, and now there was a child in the middle of it too. Thankfully my neighbours started to call the police and I got free. I was a broken husk when I reached my first children’s centre.
They picked me up and took care of me, encouraging me to come to baby groups and stay and play sessions regularly. They also offered me the Freedom Programme and Recovery Toolkit.
It changed my life. After being on the brink of letting my abuser back in, this programme gave me the confidence and strength to build a new life, a life rich with friends and skills I had gained at children’s centres.
Without children’s centres I would have spiralled into serious mental illness and myself and my child would have been at risk daily.
The NHS did not help me, social services did not help me and the current proposals to cut universal services fill me with dread. Families will be at risk, it’s that simple.
Do the right thing. Save Oxfordshire’s Children’s Centres.
Mother of two under-fives