Horsham protest against children and family centre closures

A demonstration against thee proposed closures of the majority of West Sussex’s children and family centres was held in Horsham last week.

Friday, 9th July 2021, 5:09 pm
Horsham Labour Party protests against proposed closures of children and family centres
Horsham Labour Party protests against proposed closures of children and family centres

A demonstration against thee proposed closures of the majority of West Sussex’s children and family centres was held in Horsham last week.

West Sussex County Council’s redesign of its early help services could leave the district with just one facility at the Needles.

Children and family centres at Harwood Road in the town, Roffey, Southwater, Billingshurst, Storrington and Pulborough are all earmarked for closure.

Last Thursday (July 1), members of the Horsham Labour Party held a demonstration outside the Harwood Road centre in protest against the closures.

They urged the county council to reconsider the proposed closures, which they argue would take place at a time when Covid is still having a massive impact on family finances and health.

A spokesman said: “The Conservatives are planning on shutting the vast majority of these vital facilities which bring together a wide range of services under one roof and have proved a lifeline for many children and young families such as – toy libraries, sensory play rooms, information and advice for parents, play and learn sessions, and of course the support parents give each other.”

Marta, who uses the centres in Horsham, said: “My husband and I had our first baby in 2019 and used the Roffey and Horsham children and family centres for baby club activities, baby weighing and health visitor drop-ins. My husband also attended a baby and child first aid course. These services were vital help in our first year of parenthood. 

“I am mortified to hear that the centres will be closed. Leaving only Needles open, may seem like a savvy cost saving idea to members of the council, but in reality it will mean that hundreds of young parents will have no access to these incredibly important services.”

She pointed towards the extra travel costs for many people to reach the remaining centres and felt that taking away baby clubs could isolate new parents.

In response, a council spokesman said: “The priority for our Early Help service is to identify and work with the most vulnerable children and families in West Sussex to prevent them from crisis. To meet a growing demand, our proposals are designed to increase support to those in the greatest need and to our schools. To enable us to do this, we propose to withdraw Early Help from a number of children and family centres, where the most vulnerable people often do not access our services.

“We will be working with partners who operate from these buildings and look to support them in continuing to deliver services.

“A ten-week consultation took place earlier this year and we thank all of those who took part. No final decision has been made and the proposals, along with the results of the consultation will be discussed at the Children and Young People’s Services Scrutiny Committee on Tuesday 20 July, a meeting people can watch live on our website.”