Parents are begging town hall leaders to keep open a children’s centre which they say is a lifeline for families.
A petition bidding to save the ‘Stay and Play’ at Franciscan Children’s Centre, Franciscan Road, Tooting, after Wandsworth council’s education and children’s scrutiny committee decided last month to close it.
One parent, Katherine Rivers, a nurse, said: “Closure would withdraw vital support for local families who need a service which is local, easily accessible, non-means tested and run by staff trained in Early Years support and Safeguarding.
“The Safeguarding aspect for Early Years support within Wandsworth is of particular concern, as recent cuts to the Health Visiting Service mean that fewer specially trained staff are coming into contact with children aged 0-3 years.”
Council officers told the meeting parents would still be able to access Hillbrook Children’s Centre 800 yards away in Hillbrook Road, and services within Tooting Library.
But Ms Rivers said: “Services at Hillbrook and the library are already over populated and difficult to access because of the large number of families already attending these play groups.
“The withdrawal of Stay and Play at Franciscan Children’s Centre will put pressure on Hillbrook Children’s Centre, the other local play groups and without doubt will see that children and parents are unable to access play sessions due to the increased number of parents and children attending.
“Stay and Play is a unique service that promotes child-lead play and encourages families to integrate into their community. Professionals such as the Speech and Language team, Educational Psychologist, Nutritionist, Dentist and Community Nurse are all on hand at Stay and Play to offer sound and personally tailored advice to parents. The Stay and Play service at Franciscan Children’s Centre also brings parents and children together and provides a social network that many parents heavily rely upon.
“The decision to provide a ‘Rhyme and Time’ session at Tooting Library is not a suitable alternative. Firstly, a ‘Baby Rhyme Time’ and ‘Storytime’ session already exist at the library.
“This venue is very limiting as there is no outside space, no options for messy play, preparing food, arts and crafts and is a poor substitute.
“Also, parents will not be able to engage with professionals and seek support and guidance. Without the professionally trained staff from Franciscan Children’s Centre the safeguarding aspect of Stay and Play is also withdrawn.”
Ms Rivers, an experienced Children’s Nurse and previous Education Welfare Officer, knows from experience how disaffection is sadly evident in very young children.
“Stay and Play at Franciscan Children’s Centre is the ideal service for families that enables children to integrate into their local community and socialise with their peers. This is exactly the kind of service needed to prevent the future disaffection of children and give them the confidence they need to make a positive start in education.”
To sign the petition, go to https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/keep-stay-play-at-franciscan-children-s-centre
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