AS I SEE IT: Fight to save Ribblesdale Children’s Centre from the cuts

IT’S uncertain times for many local services which provide a lifeline to residents in need of extra help.

One such service I cannot praise enough is Ribblesdale Children’s Centre, which my daughter Ruby attends.

Working part-time at the Advertiser, the Clitheroe centre has provided invaluable, reliable childcare and, since Ruby turned three, a Government-subsidised nursery place. The facilities, staff and general ethos of the centre is “outstanding”, as recognised by Ofsted.

And although no cuts to the centre’s funding have yet been announced, I waited with bated breath for the repercussions of Thursday’s meeting of Lancashire County Council at which members voted on the council’s budget for the next three years including cuts of £179m.

For those of you who don’t know much about the centre, it provides a universal service, which is available to all families with a child under the age of five. Early education is integrated with daycare provided by Cascades, a “not-for-profit” organisation run by a voluntary management committee. The centre also provides 100 statutory nursery school places.

But this is just the tip of the iceberg of how the centre supports local parents. For mums-to-be and new mums there is support both ante-natally and post-natally, including trained breast feeding support in all sessions, baby massage and “snuggle and sing” sessions. The centre also runs “Stay and Play” sessions in a variety of venues in Clitheroe and surrounding villages, which is invaluable for any new mum who needs a couple of hours’ respite.

Vital services include “Even Better Parenting” courses offering peer support and strategies for handling children’s challenging behaviour. The centre’s staff also offer one-to-one support for families facing challenging times and holiday respite sessions for children with special educational and additional needs.

Staff also work closely with other professionals to provide a holistic approach to meeting the needs of children and families. And to improve the lives and employment prospects of parents, the centre stages Level 2 English and Maths classes including a free crèche. It also hosts weekly smoking cessation clinics.

The support it gives to childminders has led to an accredited network of 14 childminders, of which five are viewed as “outstanding” by Ofsted. The Clitheroe centre also works closely with Spring Wood, the new phase 3 children’s centre in Whalley, serving parents from Sabden, Barrow, Langho, Billington and Wilpshire.

This really is just a snapshot of the services the children’s centre offers and I, for one, will vehemently oppose any funding cuts it may suffer. Such services underpin the fabric of our local society and future generations will be much worse off without them. Sadly, I fear the children’s centre might just be one of many local crucial services that will suffer from the cuts that are cited as “necessary” to reduce our country’s huge budget deficit.

Parents/carers who are interested in being part of a working group to move the service forward through these challenging times should contact Fiona Owen on 01200 423672.