Earlier this week the PM criticised Oxfordshire’s cuts to front-line services. A group of local activists fighting the closure of 44 children’s centres are keen to ensure he understands it’s a lifeline that’s being destroyed
IN September, our Conservative County Council announced proposals to close all 44 children’s centres in the county, along with the seven early intervention hubs that support vulnerable children and families aged six to 19.
We are a group of parents, grandparents and local residents who are afraid about what will happen if these cuts destroy our communities.
We got together and decided that, if the council didn’t want to listen to us, we would have to make it listen.
We lobbied councillors, protested outside council meetings, wrote to the local papers.
Then, 10 days ago, our campaign took an interesting turn.
The Oxford Mail revealed a letter from David Cameron to council leader Ian Hudspeth in which he describes cuts to Oxfordshire’s front-line services as “unwelcome and counterproductive.”
Well, if the Prime Minister really believes this, he is welcome to respond to our invitation and join us in opposing government cuts.
Meanwhile, back in the real world, these are real cuts which affect real people.
Families are scared about how they will cope without their local children’s centres and early intervention hubs.
Rural communities are scared they will lose their only means of transport when their buses are no more.
Carers despair over how they will cope with cuts to adult social care.
The list goes on...
Today we will march through the centre of Oxford together. We are standing up for children’s centres. We are standing up for the elderly and vulnerable.
We are standing up for our community against a government that wants to destroy it. We ask for your support.
The Campaign Team, Save Oxfordshire’s Children’s Centres Campaign
I AM now 25. I have a mental illness directly causally linked to traumatic childhood experiences.
When I was a child, my mother was isolated, she had a mental illness and she had regular visits from a social worker. At no point did that social worker recognise that my mother’s inability to even look after herself in basic ways, as well as her emotional instability, meant that her children were experiencing neglect and abuse.
Oxfordshire currently has a system that allows all parents of young children to get support for a variety of problems, including advice on many aspects of parenting, as well as their own mental health.
Through this, it provides a community of parents supporting each other, with trained workers, to care for children. These are accessible and stigma-free services for people across Oxfordshire. As a result, they protect families from reaching crises and support all children in healthy development.
The services will be replaced by a very limited structure that only those identified by the system as particularly “vulnerable” will be able to access. I know from my own experience that this cannot succeed in meeting the needs of even those families experiencing severe problems.
We cannot allow such a vital resource to be destroyed in the name of arbitrary political cutbacks.
LIKE many new parents, I do not have any family who live locally and despite all the antenatal classes I took and books I read, I felt isolated and at a loss on how to cope when my child Samuel was born last December.
Fortunately, I had a health visitor who strongly encouraged me and my partner to visit our local children’s centre.
It may not seem like much, but simply having someone to listen and hold your baby while you drink a cup of tea makes a world of difference in the early days, particularly when you are recovering from an emergency C-section, as I was, and the act of physically leaving home is tough.
Later I got to know other local parents from stay and plays and classes. My partner has benefited even more from our local children’s centre than I have by attending the Satur-Dads sessions, as there is so little available to fathers who also may be struggling with new parenthood.
Our local children’s centre is an anchor in the neighbourhood to our family.
Had the services not been available easily and so nearby, I know that I might not have received the intervention and emotional support I needed and my partner would not have had the space to get that critical self-confidence built.
I would hate to think that other parents would be without those services in the future.
Rt Hon David Cameron MP
House of Commons
Dear David Cameron,
Thank you for bringing national attention to the impact of proposed cuts in Oxfordshire.
We too are “disappointed about suggested cuts to front-line services” and welcome your recognition that the proposal to close Oxfordshire’s children’s centres is “unwelcome and counterproductive.”
Counterproductive is a good word — we would use the word “false economy,” because we know it’s important to balance the books.
We, like you, are concerned that cutting essential services, such as day care for the elderly and children’s centres, will cost us more money in the long run.
Providing only statutory levels of care is insufficient and short-sighted. Problems left to escalate will become more complex and entrenched, and therefore expensive.
However, we are concerned that the financial arguments ignore the costs in terms of damaged lives.
Ian Hudspeth has said that what people most want is for him to balance his budget. What we have found is that, overwhelmingly, the people of Oxfordshire want their front-line services and support for families protected. These cuts are financially and morally wrong.
We welcome your efforts to help protect these services, however perhaps, like us, you are rapidly losing confidence in government.
Please join us in the streets on Saturday, Bonn Square, Oxford 1pm. We will be marching to stand up and say a clear No to the cuts.
The march promises to be a brilliant one and has been gathering great pace on social media.
People will be marching together from children’s centres across the county. We hope to have “a baby blockade” in central Oxford and surprise events for baby-wearing mums and dads.
Our campaign urges parents, children, grandparents and supporters from across the county to keep up the pressure. Please bring music, placards, banners, to our demonstration “Invest in Our Future – Make Your Voices Heard!” Saturday November 14. Assemble at 1pm Bonn Square, Oxford, to march to the Clarendon Building on Broad Street.