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Online protests aim to save children’s centres
A SERIES of online campaigns have been launched to save Oxfordshire’s children’s centres after it emerged they could close.
So far, more than 1,000 people have joined three Facebook campaigns to save all 44 of the county’s children’s centres.
Last week the Oxford Mail revealed the county council could close 37 of the children’s centres to help plug a £61m black hole after a cut in Government funding.
But parents have said the centres are a lifeline for families.
Mum-of-two Becky Tegg, from Bicester, suffered post-natal depression after the birth of daughter Lucy, five.
Staff at two of Bicester’s four children’s centres offered support, counselling and referred her two-year-old daughter Maisie to a doctor when they noticed she had health problems.
Maisie has since been diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease, an illness for which she will need medication for the rest of her life.
Mrs Tegg, 37, said: “I was on a knife edge. Luckily they helped me with Maisie at the respite crèche and provided counselling for me.”
Mum-of-two Emma Taylor launched the Save Oxfordshire’s Children’s Centres campaign on Wednesday, which joined the Banbury-based Save Our Children’s Centres Oxfordshire, and Chipping Norton’s campaign Save the Ace Centre.
And an official petition is due to be launched today.
Mrs Taylor, from Henley, said: “Closing the children’s centre’s may save money in the short term but it could do long-term harm to families.”
Mum-of-two Gemma Walters, who uses the Carterton children’s centre, sent a letter to Prime Minister David Cameron via the Oxford Mail.
She said: “I and many others in my town are in utter despair over the proposed children’s centre closures.
“Families from RAF Brize Norton use the centre and it helps them to deal with partners being sent on detachment, when they are new to the town and don’t know anyone and are feeling scared and daunted by the new surroundings. “ Emma Wise, who works at the North Abingdon children’s centre, said the news was “shocking”.
The 42-year-old mum-of-three said: “Parenthood can be very scary and it can be quite daunting leaving the house for the first time when you have a very young child, but the support network is all there.”
The centres, which offer support to families of children under five, are used by 18,000 people a year and employ more than 260 staff.
The council needs to cut an extra £61m on top of £74m it is already saving.
Council leader Ian Hudspeth said: “They are understandable concerns.
“However, I want to work with everybody to find solutions to ensure we provide the best for the children.
“One of the unfortunate things is that we have to make savings across the services – highways, adult services too. If the communities value these services I am sure we can work with them to find a solution to safeguard them.”
A meeting on cuts to county council services will be held in Wantage tonight. Conservative council leader Mr Hudspeth and chief executive Joanna Simons will ask the public for suggestions on how it can save £61m by 2018. The event is at Wantage Civic Hall, Portway, from 7.30pm to 9pm.
Campaigners lobby PM after spotting him shopping
CAMPAIGNERS fighting the planned closure of children’s centres got the chance to put their case to the Prime Minister after spotting him in Chipping Norton.
About 50 people were protesting against the county council plans in Market Street on Saturday when they saw David Cameron, whose Witney constituency includes the town.
Protester and father-of-two Steve Akers, who sent his two children to the pre-school group at the town’s children’s centre, The Ace Centre, spoke to the PM.
He said: “The early intervention they do is absolutely crucial to social cohesion, keeping families together and supporting single parents when families break up.
“His response to me was basically that he supports the children’s centres and then he went into the argument about where does the axe fall.”
Mr Cameron was not available for comment.
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