We’re publishing our response to Wandsworth Council’s Children’s Centre Reorganisation Consultation.
This response was compiled talking to local residents and families, Council staff, local charities and partner organisations and by attending three consultation events at York Gardens and Yvonne Carr Children’s Centres.
Katherine Low Settlement is a busy charity that has been serving Battersea and the wider Wandsworth community since 1924. Our vision is for an inclusive society where people achieve their potential together. We foster and empower communities in our neighbourhood to reduce poverty and isolation.
We run a range of our own community projects to support children, young people and families, older people and refugee communities. In addition to these direct services, we also use our premises to act as a local hub for other charities and community groups so that as partners, we can meet the diverse needs of the communities of Wandsworth. Each week we work with 45+ charities and community groups supporting more than 1,100 people.
KLS has a strong track record of working with children and families for more than 94 years. We were founded in 1924 to support children and their parents in what were then the slums of Battersea. They have remained core to our work ever since. In 2002/03 as the lead agency for Battersea Sure Start we co-built and co-hosted a vibrant and successful Sure Start centre for many low-income families in Battersea. We demonstrated (as with many other Sure Centres across the UK) the difference that early action and prevention work can make for children (0-5 year olds) and their parents in those crucial early years of their lives.
Children’s centres are a vital community asset for local residents living in areas of deprivation, such as those in Battersea’s wards of Latchmere and Queenstown. Rather than choosing to remove £741,700 from its Early Childhood Services budget, (read from pg.53) we would encourage Wandsworth Council to find ways of diverting and bolstering its budget in this area. Research shows that investment in early years saves money and improve lives in the long term.
The current Children’s Centres of York Gardens and Yvonne Carr are based in the heart of some of Wandsworth’s most deprived housing estates. There are high levels of need amongst local children and their families, which is why children’s centres were developed there in the first place.
We would encourage Wandsworth Council not to reduce their family support, budgets or staff. In fact, these could be increased by transforming York Gardens and Yvonne Carr into multi-purpose community centres, with a focus on early childhood. Such as been done positively at R.O.S.E. Community Centre by using regeneration funds available for the area with the right investment, people and support. We have also proved this model works here at Katherine Low. As has the much heralded intergenerational model at Nightingale House. This would develop a (financially) sustainable model supporting the deprived and geographically isolated communities of the Patmore and Carey Gardens, as well as York Gardens/Winstanley housing estates. It would also bring together and join up a variety of statutory and community services and organisations to support local residents more holistically. A similar investment into Yvonne Carr would bring value for money in the longer term.
“Outstanding universal services, early learning opportunities and schools are the foundation of the Council’s early help offer in Wandsworth.” (Paper No.18-211) These must be located in the most deprived parts of our borough. These facilities should be kept universal and free for example ‘stay and play’, as well as nursery provision. They should not be reduced, if anything family support services should be increased. Health services should be bolstered including health visitors, psychological therapies, speech therapy and more. Yvonne Carr should re-establish its nursery for 2-3-4 year olds (free 15/30 hours places); as well as offer a variety of services for young people (term time and holidays) and for adults (e.g. ESOL language classes, employment, training, advice and guidance etc.).
We urge Wandsworth Council to co-produce more of their local services by listening to and being led by what local people want and need; and working in partnership with more charities who can access different sources of funding and bring complementary services into the community.
We would recommend that Wandsworth Council keep open and actually increases its provision at York Gardens – supporting parents within pram pushing distance (door to door York Gardens is at least a 40+ minute brisk walk to Yvonne Carr).
We applaud the Thrive Hub to be introduced, however the redevelopment and re-opening of a community facility is at least 5 years down the line, but probably more realistically 7-10 years. This would mean a whole generation of children would miss out on the benefits of universal early childhood services, including stay and play. We question why it needs to be reorganised now, at the very point where pending disruption and instability to community life, caused by the York Gardens regeneration work, is about to start. This is precisely the time when a stable core of community resources is needed to get people through.
Private early years nurseries are not a suitable alternative. They should not be put into public buildings as this defeats the original purpose and funding for these buildings, which were to support low income families in these deprived neighbourhoods. These communities will not be able to afford private nurseries.
We recommend that Wandsworth Council further develop its marketing, community outreach and partnerships to increase take-up of the free early years places for 2-3-4 year-old. This would enable the Council to draw down more funding from central government, through the Universal Funding Formula, into the community.
More consideration should be given to working with Schools to provide wrap-around childcare (e.g. breakfast clubs, after school clubs, holiday play provision etc.) that is affordable to low income families.
If Wandsworth Council would like to talk to more local families about early childhood services, then please do get in touch with us.