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Unite to join campaigners in protest march over plans to close 19 children’s centres

PUBLISHED: 10:14 19 July 2017 | UPDATED: 10:14 19 July 2017

Children's centres in Medway are under threat

Children's centres in Medway are under threat

Serban George

Medway Council will hold a final vote on the controversial proposals on Thursday

Campaigners will march this evening in protest against plans to close 19 children’s centres, and slash up to 50 jobs in the process.

Medway Council recently consulted on proposals to close 19 Sure Start centres across the district and create four ‘super hubs’ in its place.

The hubs would combine children’s centre services for 0-5-year-olds, with early help teams who work with families and children who are aged five and upwards and the Conservative-controlled council says this means families would benefit from a whole host of services under one roof.

However, opposition against the plans has been significant, with Labour frontbencher Angela Raynor even getting involved, describing the plans as “an absolute scandal”.

The march, starting at 6pm on Gun Wharf Road, Chatham will head down Dock Road to Chatham’s St. George’s Centre, where the town hall is holding a public meeting and councillors will hold a final vote on the proposed closures.

Campaigners argue the centres provide a vital lifeline for children and families in the early years, offering a range of services to people from all backgrounds, including health visiting, speech and language therapy, social services early help provision, mental health support and domestic abuse services.

However, the council insists the move is necessary in the face of growing budget pressures, and is understood to be looking to save £1m through the closure programme.

Trade union representatives from Unite will also be joining campaigners on this evening’s march.

Regional officer Kathy Walters said: “We urge Medway councillors to vote against the closure of these centres and step back from cuts which will restrict access to an essential community service.

“The loss of these vital Sure Start centres will not just impact on the parents and children who use them, but on other public services, such as the NHS, because there will be nowhere left for people needing help and support to turn.

“Councillors need to resist short-term cuts and look at the wider and long-term impact that cutting a vital lifeline will have on families.”

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