Loss of valued children’s sessions prompts Melton parents’ bid to run services

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Melton parents are planning to set up their own sessions to support young families after some of the borough’s acclaimed children’s services were axed this week as part of County Hall’s cost cuts.

The borough’s Sure Start children’s centre programme, which is used by 1,400 children and parents every year, was held up as a beacon of excellence for the rest of Leicestershire in 2013 by Ofsted inspectors.

But two of the most popular services - Stay and Play and Chatterbox - were closed this week as Leicestershire County Council seeks to streamline the programme as a contribution to its £120 million savings target.

Other Melton children’s services are also threatened with closure as the council continues to review what it can afford to provide.

Members of Family Voices - a group of parents and carers based in the Melton borough - are dismayed by the reduction in family services because they say they’re essential in helping the development of young children aged up to five.

Chairperson for the group, Ros Baker, said: “These services we have lost were so valuable to Melton parents and now we’re in a bit of limbo because the council hasn’t said what other services might be cut.

“We’re now working on a few projects ourselves where we could put on services but it would all be voluntary and we will need to be trained in areas like First Aid.

“We’re working with other services such as Me and My Learning and health visitors to make sure we put on services which are needed.”

Stay and Play was a toddler group offering a fun and stimulating environment for young children and gave advice and support to parents and carers.

Chatterbox was somewhere more than 200 families every year received communication tips and strategies.

From yesterday (Wednesday), the county council took over the running of Melton’s Sure Start children’s centre programme - which operates three venues in the town and one in Bottesford - from Melton Council.

A County Hall spokesman said: “We will continue to provide support to parents and we’ll work with groups to develop ideas on how we can sustain services which make the most difference to children.”

Melton Council said all four Sure Start centres remain open for community activities at the moment and it would work with community groups to look at local needs.

Ronan Browne, people and place manager for the authority, said: “We will extend our Me and My Learning offer to work with parents with children aged up to five and use the children’s centres to undertake this work.”