You’re not listening to us, users of Highgate Children’s Centre tell Haringey
USERS of a Highgate children’s centre have accused Haringey Council of not listening to them over its plans to close the facility, which opened a year ago at a cost of �500,000.
More than 150 people attended a meeting at Highgate Primary School last Friday to question children’s boss, Cllr Lorna Reith, over Haringey’s plans to shut the popular children’s centre.
The new building was opened in February 2010 at a cost of half a million pounds. Families with children under five use it to access support, health services, educational facilities, advice and information.
Free services include baby weighing, ante and postnatal classes, meetings with health visitors, breast-feeding support, a dads’ club, a club for children with allergies, citizens’ advice bureau and courses on first aid and sleep training.
Mums’ yoga, baby massage and a baby music class are also on offer for a small fee.
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Parents and users are dismayed and furious at Haringey council’s warning that it is “at risk” as part of the cuts, because N6 is not a deprived area.
Adam Porter, 33, is a stay-at-home dad who takes his two sons Dylan, three, and Isaac, one, to the centre two days a week.
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Mr Porter, who lives in East Finchley, said: “I started the dads’ group at the children’s centre which is one of the only facilities for dads in London. It does not serve a so-called privileged area. We have dads coming from Tottenham and as far as Bedfordshire because the dads’ club is unique.”
Mr Porter claimed the consultation was a sham because councillor Lorna Reith did not seem to be receptive to ideas parents came up with.
“We suggested cutting our services by 50 per cent and that we were prepared to pay the running costs ourselves but Cllr Reith just said ‘interesting’,” he said.
“The council spent �500,000 on the centre and it would be criminal not to use it.”
Kate Imeson, who works at the centre, said an average of 250 children attend each week.
Ms Imeson added that if the centre closes, families would have to travel to the Campsbourne children’s centre, which is on the Hornsey side of Crouch End.
She said: “This entails a walk and two buses which is physically and psychologically too daunting for most new parents. And since, like Highgate, it is usually full at the moment, how would it cope with the increased demand from the parents from other areas that did manage to make it there?”
Cllr Lorna Reith, children’s services boss, said: “Because of government cuts to our budget, we are having to make tough decisions about services across the council.
“We share people’s dismay over the fact that centres which have only recently been opened may have to close. We invested a lot of money in them across the borough because we recognised that children centres, like Highgate, are popular and offer valuable help and support to young families.
“As we are consulting about the future of all of these centres, it would not be appropriate for me to comment too specifically on proposals put forward by parents and others.”
The consultation on the future of children’s centres in Haringey closes on April 22.
o To request a copy of the consultation document call 020-8489 2582 or visit www.haringey.gov.uk//index/children_and_families/eyc/cc-consultation.htm.