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The Fight Back (Again) - Save Kent's Children's Centres

The failings of history repeat themselves under the Tories. Picture this: it was 2013; I had a one-year-old baby in my arms and despite it being the middle of the summer holidays, I was exhausted. My friends and I gathered outside our local children’s centre to protest it’s proposed closure by Kent County Council. That centre had been my lifeline over the previous year: I had heard my baby’s heartbeat there for the first time, under the care of the local midwife team; I had joined a weekly breastfeeding support group there (really for the free tea and the company of other women, to cut through the loneliness that can come with new parenthood) and I’d gone to the weigh-in sessions, to chat to the health visiting team and make sure, as a first time mum, I was getting it right (or right-ish).

My friends and I saved that local children’s centre from closure. Other protests – including a 70-strong march in Canterbury that we also joined protested the proposed closure of 12 children’s centres across the county.

Now, ten years on, the same children’s centre we saved and 34 others across Kent are once again, threatened with a bonfire of closures. My baby is now off to secondary school. I don’t use the weigh-in clinics. But I know deeply, and so many parents, grandparents, teachers, community leaders and politicians know too, how much these centres are desperately needed.

Kent Conservative leaders say closing these children’s centres with save six million pounds a year. They say that everyone will be within 30 minutes public transport from a children’s centre (this is a thin promise given the ongoing County cuts to buses and the extortionate price of trains).

I say, this isn’t good enough. I agree with Labour Kent County Councillor Kelly Grehan who says that ‘spending money on services and support for young families saves a lot of money later on’. As Kelly rightly points out, the moves to re-site some services in libraries and other public buildings isn’t right; many of these buildings do not ‘accommodate the needs of parents...[they are] not the right set up at all.’

Many of the centres under threat of closure are in some of the most deprived areas of Kent, take Shepway Youth Hub, or Beaches Children’s Centre in Sheppey or Priory Children’s Centre in Ramsgate. These are just some examples of the centres, where easy walkable access is needed; families don’t have extra cash to spend on public transport. For many families across Kent too, the staff at the children’s centres are the approachable, kind sort of authority organisations that they do trust. In these centres, people ask quietly for help and help is often quietly given. I have no doubt that children’s centres across Kent have saved many lives.

Parents, community leaders, grandparents, nurses and others across Kent have started petitions, Facebook groups, WhatsApp networks and more to try and save these centres under threat of closure. See an excellent article about the campaign in Thanet here where some excellent local councillors give their own strong words about these horrendous cuts. Please see below for those I know of (I will add more, as people let me know).

Please fill in Kent County Council’s consultation on these proposed cuts here. Please also share this article and spread the word about the petition or group nearest you.

We’ve saved children’s centres before here in Kent. It looks like we must fight to do it again.

Petition to Save Callis Grange Children’s Centre, Broadstairs

Facebook Group to Save Blossom Children’s Centre, Walmer

Petition to Save Swalecliffe and Joy Lane Children’s Centres in Whitstable

Posted on January 20th 2023

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