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Relief after children's centre saved
6:00am Tuesday 22nd October 2013 in Local News
THE manager of a children’s centre saved from closure said the decision had ended months of turmoil and uncertainty.
Imelda Callowhill, who runs Hamstel Children and Family Centre, in Hamstel Road, Southend, and Darlinghurst children’s centre, in Leigh, said she was thrilled when Southend Council confirmed it would not be closing Hamstel next April.
It was due to merge with Temple Sutton Children’s Centre, in Eastern Avenue, Southend, but the council found an extra £224,000 to save it from the axe.
Ms Callowhill said: “This has been ongoing since February. It has been very difficult, especially for those who are more vulnerable. The uncertainty has not helped with the complexities of developing relationships and building confidence with families on the margins of society who need our help and support.
"In this area there are a huge number of families that fall in the category, so we are delighted for them.
“It’s a blessing for the children.
"It’s all about providing support to those who need it the most.”
The centre was one of three set to close under cost-cutting measures. Plans to merge Darlinghurst with the Blenheim Centre, in Leigh, and the merger of Shoebury children’s centre with nearby Friars are still set to go ahead.
These mergers have contributed £159,500, the lion’s share of savings required from the children’s centre budget.
The remaining £64,500 was to come from the controversial merger of Hamstel with Temple Sutton.
This is now being met by an increase from central government of around £700,000 in the public health budget.
James Courtenay, councillor responsible for children and learning, said: “The children’s centre is a sound thing to use the grant for because they undertake many health-related functions. We are keeping two large centres open in areas of high deprivation.”
Hamstel, run by the South Essex Partnership Trust on behalf of the council, is described as a focal point of the community.
Ms Callowhill said: “It’s never been about us, as trust employees we are protected and would have transferred.
"We were worried for the families and nowwe are thrilled.
“We had a huge level of support to remain open. As one of the busiest centres in the town, we see about 3,000 people a month.
"We’re in a purpose- built centre costing £1.3million, which is a fabulous investment, in a very deprived area, therefore the decision was right.”
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