Closing centre would hit community hard

Mums and children protesting against the closure of their Sure Start Centre on Grenfell Avenue, Layton

Mums and children protesting against the closure of their Sure Start Centre on Grenfell Avenue, Layton

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YOUNG mums are protesting at plans which could see their Sure Start Centre closed.

Families will lose out on services including financial advice, help on cooking healthy meals and courses to get people back to work if the Layton Sure Start Centre on Grenfell Avenue shuts.

Blackpool Council is slashing £500,000 from its Sure Start budget with the future of all centres currently under review.

The Grenfell Avenue centre has been open for around three years.

Elizabeth Metcalf, 25, of Whittaker Avenue, Layton, who takes her six-month-old daughter Tiana to the centre, said: “It is a place where you can go and make friends and get advice on everything from childcare to training courses and if it closes people in this community will really miss out. We have set up a petition and will be holding a protest outside Layton Library tomorrow to show how strong feelings are about this.”

Karen Crook, 29, of Bispham Road, takes her children Callum, five, and Shannon, 22 months, to the centre.

Karen said: “The kids can play together in a safe environment and the atmosphere is warm and welcoming. You can always get advice, it is like another listening ear.”

Mel Sweeney, 23, of Grenfell Avenue, who is mum to Elissa, two, said: “Some of the mums who use the centre are only 18 or 19, and they get taught basic skills like how to cook healthy meals for their children.

“But you can also get advice such as speech therapy for your children, or to see a health visitor. It’s all support for young mums and families which will be lost.”

Layton ward councillors Roy Haskett and Sue Ridyard are supporting the campaign to keep the centre open.

Coun Haskett said: “It shouldn’t be a drain on resources because the centre is already purchased and is only a converted house, so it is only salary.

“The centre opened as a satellite to the one on Chepstow Avenue at Grange Park but is now a well-used community facility.

“If it is closed, young mums would have to cross the very busy St Walburga’s Road to reach the Grange Park centre.”

Coun Peter Collins, cabinet member for Children’s Services on Blackpool Council, said no decision had yet been taken on whether any Sure Start Centres would close.

He said: “We have held consultation and started a review of all children’s centres and Sure Start.

“Once we have concluded that, we will be announcing if we have to make any closures. At this point in time we can’t say yes or no to any particular one.”

Thursday’s protest takes place from 1.30pm until 2.30pm outside Layton Library on Talbot Road.