Loss of children’s centres in Reigate and Banstead and Tandridge ‘would lead to isolation’

November 8, 2018

The closure of eight children’s centres across East Surrey would leave parents in more remote areas isolated, according to those who use the services.

Surrey County Council is proposing to shut 31 of its 58 children’s centres as part of its plans to save £200 million by 2021. This would see centres in Redhill, Reigate, Banstead, Horley, Smallfield, Lingfield, Hurst Green and Hamsey Green close.

Horley would get a new, bigger centre, which would become a central service for surrounding areas, likely putting more pressure on the services there.

Staff and parents who use the affected centres say their closure would have a huge impact on families.

Michele Brown, 49, who works at the YMCA Banstead Children’s Centre, said: “We just want to continue to work. It’s a real hub for all the mums here, it’s always busy. It’s a worry about our futures but it’s mainly about the children and how it will affect them.

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Chair of the pre-school charity at Banstead, Emma Lidefjard, said: “I think it will be an incredible shame for Banstead. I’ve made one of my best friends here and she’s from Chipstead so you get a lot of people from all around coming here.

“We recently built a mud kitchen in the garden here after we got a grant from Toyota and the kids love it, so this whole thing has thrown me a bit.”

Emma’s daughter, Freya Lidefjard, 3, explained what she likes about the centre. She said: “It’s really good. I don’t feel like I want to cry in there. I like playing with Play-Doh, and going outside.”

Freya Lidefjard, 3, playing with her mum Emma at YMCA Banstead Children’s Centre
(Image: ©Grant Melton Photography 2018)

An important function of children’s centres is to reduce the isolation that can come with being a new parent.

Lauren Willmartt, 38, who uses the Banstead site, said: “It would be a real loss for the community here. There are so many facilities here in addition to the preschool.

“It can be quite isolating for parents with young children and it’s good to get emotional support for parents as well as having something for the children.”

SCC is proposing having a main centre in Dorking in addition to the one in Horley. But some feel they won’t be accessible for those on the fringes of the districts.

Banstead resident Russell Willmartt, 46, said: “There are a lot of families in places like Merstham or more remote areas that just won’t be able to make it that far for something like pre-school, especially taking kids on public transport.”

Horley Community Children’s Centre manager Natalie Hughes said an expanded service in Horley is badly needed.

She said: “It’s horrible that other centres are [potentially] losing staff and I don’t agree with the cuts, but our need here is big and expanding our services is honestly what Horley needs. I think that Horley has been neglected by the council for a long time.”

Judith Brooks, YMCA East Surrey’s Head of Children’s Services, urged parents to take part in the council’s consultation to voice their concerns.

To have your say, go to https://www.surreycc.gov.uk/council-and-democracy/have-your-say/consultations

Article source: https://www.getsurrey.co.uk/news/surrey-news/loss-childrens-centres-reigate-banstead-15378514

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