Talks Over Cuts at the Children’s Centre Get off to Good Start

By Lyndsey Woodland, Southmead Resident.

My son has attended Badock’s Wood Children’s Centre since he was six months old and he’s now three.  I totally reply on the Centre to be able to do my job with Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership.  On Thursday 12th July I was informed of the awful significant changes for the Centre imposed by Bristol City Council which are, from September 2018: no provision of wrap-around care; free places for only two, three and four-year olds; shorter childcare days; no cooked meals; and the closure of the baby room.

These changes have been planned due to poor management of the Centre over the past few years and now the Centre is financially running at a lost.  The baby room is actually already closed and currently babies and under twos are all sharing the same room.

If these changes are approved, then working parents need to look elsewhere for childcare.  As a working parent this is another obstacle in trying to maintain a job I need without the security of knowing my child is being looked after properly in place he loves.  Or, I may need to leave my job as an NHS nurse which will impact greatly on mine and my family’s future.

I started an online petition straight away: – search for Save Badock’s Wood Children’s Centre – please sign and share!  I currently have over 350 supporters/signatures.  I have spoken to many other parents and carers asking for their support and listening to their concerns, comforting them and trying to give hope we can challenge these changes.  There is also a Facebook Group – Badock’s Wood Children’s Centre parents/carers support group – please join!

After emailing Cllr Helen Godwin and Darren Jones we agreed to meet at Southmead library on 21st July to raise our concerns.  Thirteen parents and children attended, and we met with Cllr Helen Godwin and Dawn Butler (the early years commissioner for BCC).  David Jones, the current Director of the Centre also attended to offer support and listen to our concerns.

We raised our concerns and how this fantastic lifeline to the Southmead community will impact greatly on Southmead families if these changes are imposed, especially on working parents.  We were informed that family support services would not be affected i.e. groups at the Centre will remain, however, we highlighted that these groups have already been significantly reduced over the past twelve months.  Dawn Butler promised to investigate this further and investigate why the children’s Centre has lost certain groups.

We discussed how BCC are taking over in September 2018 and that Henbury and Brentry Children’s Centre are leaving, after stepping in last year, and how this will impact on management and leadership changes.  We were told there should be a new manager in place in September, and layered management, to cover safeguarding and the general team.

We were grateful to be informed that NO CHANGES will be implemented until January 2019 and before then BCC will review whether these changes will need to be imposed.  Cllr Helen Godwin has promised to visit the Centre and meet with parents at a drop-in session so parents can be heard.  It was also agreed that another parent drop-in session would be arranged for September with Dawn Butler attending.

We finally asked BCC to be honest and transparent with us, the parents and with the Centre so information can be shared, and miscommunication does not happen – I have volunteered to lead any communication with parents.  We’ll update you with any further news.

The last few weeks goes to show what an amazing community spirit we have in Southmead and when we pull together, positive changes can happen.  Sometimes making some noise and ‘fuss’ is the only option and Southmead is definitely capable of doing this when it comes to our children!

A massive big thanks to ALL the staff at the Children’s Centre who have remained so professional and continue to provide outstanding care for all the children since they were informed on the 11th July about the changes; the staff there are simply amazing and need to be given the recognition they deserve!

Please share our info and remember to sign the petition and join the Facebook Group.