Pressure from school kids has forced Croydon Council to U-turn on plans to close two children’s centres.
In a bid to save cash, the council wanted to shut Shirley Children’s Centre and stop services from Purley Oaks Children’s Centre.
More than 1,365 responses were submitted to a consultation that closed in June, with 725 people saying they disagreed with the changes.
Ninety school children from Purley Oaks Primary School and 400 former centre users complained.
While the centres will now remain open, cuts to the tune of £1 million will still go ahead – meaning there may be fewer sessions and possible job cuts.
The budget for the services will be slashed from £2.1 million to £1.1 million.
The borough’s Best Start children’s centres provide services for children up to the age of five, including play sessions and one to one family support.
One of the responses read: “It was a complete godsend when I felt very alone and very isolated, I had somewhere to go just to get out the house and have a natter to someone that’s in the same boat as me.”
Changes to the service were given the green light by the council’s cabinet at a meeting on Monday (July 26).
It will see three main centres in the borough – one in the north, centre and south – each with two or three smaller centres elsewhere in the area.
The main centres will offer a full programme of services and manage a reduced programme of activities from the smaller sites.
There are currently nine management teams for the different centres – this will be reduced to three area management teams.
Alisa Flemming, cabinet member for children, young people and learning, said: “Essentially we’ve sought to have a number of centres across the borough that are offering different services depending on the needs of that area.
“We extended the deadline on this consultation to provide an opportunity for more members of the community to give their views, we had over 1,000 come back to us and what was really special was over 60 responses that came from children that spoke directly on what it meant to them and why we should keep certain sites.
“As a result we looked at how we could reconfigure the model and we will continue to deliver services out of Shirley and Purley Oaks.”
Maria Gatland, shadow cabinet member for families, said she “commended” Purley Oaks children sending more than 90 letters in support of their local children’s centre.
She added: “I really welcome the U-turn of the administration of the closure of Shirley and Purley Oaks children’s centres which would have been an incredibly damaging to young people in the south of the borough and deprived them of access in their local area at a critical stage of their development.
“Of course there is a reduction of £1 million on the original budget. Will this mean yet more staff posts be cut or the service reduced or both?”
Cllr Flemming said that the decision to cut down management to three teams was made to “protect frontline delivery”.
The U-turn comes as an Ofsted inspector warned that the council’s children’s services department is showing signs of being impacted in the wake of the authority’s bankruptcy.
A report published on Monday (July 26) said that the council’s early help services are “becoming stretched as the impact of financial constraints takes hold”.