Children’s centre closure would affect ‘most disadvantaged’

Photo Neil Cross
Heysham Nursery, at Heysham Youth & Community Centre, Emmaus Road, subject of a consultation on closing three nurseries in Heysham/Morecambe
Photo Neil Cross Heysham Nursery, at Heysham Youth & Community Centre, Emmaus Road, subject of a consultation on closing three nurseries in Heysham/Morecambe

The closure of a Heysham children’s centre could affect some of the most vulnerable families in the community, according to a staff member.

Dawn Hepburn, who is manager of the pre-school which operates out of the centre in Emmaus Road, said it is a vital part of the area for numerous people.

Photo Neil Cross
Heysham Nursery, at Heysham Youth & Community Centre, Emmaus Road, subject of a consultation on closing three nurseries in Heysham/Morecambe

Photo Neil Cross Heysham Nursery, at Heysham Youth & Community Centre, Emmaus Road, subject of a consultation on closing three nurseries in Heysham/Morecambe

A petition aimed at keeping the centre open has already gathered more than 250 signatures.

The centre is one of three on a list of potential closures, along with Poulton and Balmoral Road children’s centres, as Lancashire County Council tries to save £200m by 2020/21 as a result of ongoing government cuts to its budget.

The council says the services could be moved to Morecambe library – but Dawn said that is not a practical solution for many parents.

She said: “We set up the petition to see if we can make a difference.

Photo Neil Cross
Heysham Nursery, at Heysham Youth & Community Centre, Emmaus Road, subject of a consultation on closing three nurseries in Heysham/Morecambe

Photo Neil Cross Heysham Nursery, at Heysham Youth & Community Centre, Emmaus Road, subject of a consultation on closing three nurseries in Heysham/Morecambe

“There’s been a nursery in this building for more than 20 years.

“We have about 60 children on the register altogether. Poulton has about 120 and Balmoral has about 100 – across the area we are talking about almost 300 nursery places as well as people’s jobs that could go.”

The county council consultation is due to finish on August 14.

“Who knows what will come out of that,” Dawn said. “The worst thing is no one knows what’s happening.

Photo Neil Cross
Heysham Nursery, at Heysham Youth & Community Centre, Emmaus Road, subject of a consultation on closing three nurseries in Heysham/Morecambe

Photo Neil Cross Heysham Nursery, at Heysham Youth & Community Centre, Emmaus Road, subject of a consultation on closing three nurseries in Heysham/Morecambe

“I first heard about the plans on Facebook; nobody from the council has rung us up to speak to us about it.

“Some of the parents heard about this on the grapevine and people have been asking us if we are going to be shutting but we can’t answer that question.

“We have been talking to people as much as we can and asking them to go online and fill in the consultation document.

“Parents are worried. Quite a lot of them have older children that came here or younger ones that they want to come here in the future and we don’t know whether that will be possible.

Photo Neil Cross
Heysham Nursery, at Heysham Youth & Community Centre, Emmaus Road, subject of a consultation on closing three nurseries in Heysham/Morecambe

Photo Neil Cross Heysham Nursery, at Heysham Youth & Community Centre, Emmaus Road, subject of a consultation on closing three nurseries in Heysham/Morecambe

“We are already quite full for September. If it does shut then we might be able to find somewhere else to run from, but we don’t know that and I would like us to stay in this building.

“This is such an important community building that I can’t believe they want to close it.”

Seven full and part-time members of staff work at the pre-school, which pays rent and also a service cost to the council towards for the running of the building.

The pre-school, a registered charity, is open 38 weeks a year during term-time, between 8am and 5pm. It caters for youngsters from the age of two until they join reception class.

“Some of our funding helps the most disadvantaged children in the area,” Dawn said.

“There’s a new housing estate behind the centre and there are still houses being built so where are they going to provide the services for everyone?

“Also, the new link road could bring more people into the area.”

County Coun Ken Brown, whose Heysham ward includes the centre, has been working with County Coun Tony Jones from the Morecambe North ward,

It is hoped that a meeting will be held later this week between county council officers, councillors and the nursery staff.

Coun Brown said: “The idea is to move the facilities to Morecambe library but I am quite dubious about whether that could actually work.

“We are dealing with children and it would disrupt a lot of people.

“As an elected community representative that’s a concern for me.

“What is going to happen to the community? An awful lot of people use these centres.

“I have great concerns which I have expressed. I just can’t see it working if they transfer all the facilities to Morecambe.”

Coun Jones added: “The most important thing is to get the providers and the users in a room together to discuss the matter.

County Coun David Borrow, deputy leader of Lancashire County Council with responsibility for finance, said: “Through the property strategy we aim to ensure that we have the right buildings to provide good access to good services, with a significantly reduced budget.

“We’ve looked at a wide range of factors to try and make sure services are in the right place. We understand the strong attachment people have to local services and buildings and I’d encourage as many people as possible to respond to this consultation.”

The online petition is at https://www.change.org/p/lancashire-county-council-save-morecambe-s-children-s-centres-from-closure and there are paper petitions at the centre itself and at Strawberry Gardens post office.

You can also take part in the consultation at http://www.lancashire.gov.uk/council/get-involved/consultations/changes-to-where-we-provide-services.aspx