Mums ‘optimistic’ after family centres meeting

jpco-19-5-14 Mums petition against family centre cuts (Pic by Jon Rigby) SUS-140520-113343001
jpco-19-5-14 Mums petition against family centre cuts (Pic by Jon Rigby) SUS-140520-113343001

Mothers met with county councillors and officers after hundreds signed a petition against cutting services at Crawley children and family centres.

Jemma Rowberry, 31, a test analyst, of Bellamy Road, Maidenbower set up the e-petition to oppose West Sussex County Council’s plans to cut drop-in sessions at the centres.

She said she and some five other mothers and WSCC cabinet members and officers in charge of children’s services met at Maidenbower and Pound Hill Family Centre on Wednesday (May 23).

She said: “They are making the right noises at the moment, and about the things that we are putting forward - we’re feeling quite optimistic.”

Jemma said she and the mothers would compromise with plans to run the sessions externally.

She said: “They’ve made their point very clear that these sessions will end and that’s that.

“We’ve got to pick our battles really.

“That there’s still open sessions available to the public is what we want.”

She added: “It might be that it’s provided by a external provider, now it’s about finding what other alternatives are possible.”

A meeting to discuss how the services would continue in September was arranged for Thursday (May 29).

Jemma and her husband Stuart, 36, have a nine-month-old son, Oscar. She attends the centre in Pound Hill with him and found out the Discovery Time sessions they go to will end earlier this month.

She said: “I was really shocked, it came completely out of the blue.”

Jemma said she was told the last session would be held on May 20 and all but two centres will have their Babies and Bumps sessions cut.

Those remaining would be made invite-only for lone parents or those on low incomes.

The county council apologised for cutting the services too quickly after more than 300 people signed the petition she set up on May 12 against the cuts.

It postponed the cuts until the end of the school year and arranged the meeting with the mothers.

Jemma said: “We didn’t think we would achieve what we have so far the stay of execution until the end of July is fantastic.”

The signatories included Crawley MP Henry Smith, Chris Oxlade, Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Crawley, and a number of borough councillors.

Jemma said: “The battle’s not over until we get those sessions set up in September but we can be quietly pleased about what we’ve achieved so far.

“It just goes to show what a community can do when everyone pulls together.”

She met with Henry Smith MP on Friday (May 23).

Jemma said: “He’s fully behind us and he’s going to do everything he can to help us get what we need.”

Mr Smith called on the county council to reconsider any plans to close the Bumps and Babies groups at family and children centres.

He said he had been ‘very concerned’ after mothers contacted him about the issue.

A county council spokesman said: “We are sorry that these changes have happened so quickly, without allowing time for alternative options to be explored.”