Letter - Plan to cull Wakefield’s children’s centres is ‘ruthless’

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I am writing to you with regard to the recent proposal to close several local children’s centres. I am a 23 year-old mother with a 19 month-old son who regularly uses the Sharlston children’s centre twice a week.

As the local newspaper, I thought it was a good idea to express my concerns with you. I am writing this letter myself but I no doubt will be speaking on behalf of several parents and carers who use Sharlston children’s centre, and many others I may imagine.

I was shocked and devastated when I heard of the closure proposal. The centre is an invaluable source for the local community. It is as simple as that. I do not drive, so the centre is just within my reach. Centres located any further from my home would be unattainable.

I moved to this area when I was three months pregnant. Knowing nobody where I lived.

It was only through going to groups at the centre once my little boy was born, that I made friends in the local area who had small children like mine.

Any mother will agree that having other mothers who can relate to you when you have small children is essential.

It would have been near impossible to have met mums and babies in my local area to get to know without the centre.

I believe for a baby to be happy its primary caregiver must be happy. The services the centre offers have definitely contributed positively to my life and therefore positively to my son’s.

I dare say without something as simple as a group to go to once a week, where new mums can meet other mums in the same situation, post natal depression would be more prevalent.

My child gets 90% of his interaction with other children at the centre. If it was to close, he would lose interaction with people his own age. Apart from friends or family who may have small children, it is hard to find situations where small children can all interact. The centre gives him a vibrant fresh environment which aids his development and growth no end.

The knowledge and support which the centre offers is brilliant and you always know you can find out valuable and useful information.

For example I only found out I was entitled to child tax credit by going to the centre. Otherwise to this day I still would be none the wiser. Furthermore hearing what other mums do or what they try with their children can be really helpful.

Also, I am aware that recently free nursery for two year-olds has been brought in; which for my family circumstances we will not be entitled to. So my family are being bitten at both sides; proposed no local children’s centre and no free nursery at two years.

Moreover it begs the question, how we can afford to offer this free childcare out to thousands, but now we cannot afford to keep the centres running?

In my opinion the issue is priority. For one random example the water feature located at the Bull Ring in Wakefield town centre. Apart from looking vaguely nice on a summer’s day what purpose is it actually serving anyone?

Yet our government/council whoever, decided it was worthy to spend money building such a thing when we now can barely afford to keep important children’s services running.

I would willingly and much rather, pay a small fee (of say a pound or so) per session than see the centre close. I’m not suggesting this would solve the financial issue but it would help.

I am almost certain the majority of the centre’s users would rather pay than have no centre at all. However, rather than an intervention as such being suggested, it is shocking that a closure is the first proposed action.

I apologise if my letter comes across as a big moan. However I refuse to sit back when something which has been and still is a big part of mine and my child’s life is so ruthlessly about to be taken away.

Tara Smith