Mothers rescue at-risk Staffordshire children's centres

Two children's centres in Staffordshire have been saved from the axe by a group of mothers who have stepped in to take control of the services.

Mothers rescue at-risk Staffordshire children's centres

Boney Hay and Springhill centres were earmarked for closure in January as part of a raft of cuts by the county council affecting 43 centres.

A 2,000-strong petition was handed to the authority in protest at the move, which would have left Burntwood with no children's centres. Parents have formed a community organisation to take over the running of the sites from next month.

Mother and music teacher Esther Allen, a leading campaigner, said: "I'm so proud of what we've been able to achieve in such a short space of time.

"We joked, as mothers, about the idea of being able to run our own children's centres, and now it is a reality."

The new group, called Spark (Burntwood), will be officially launched on September 7, with the centres opening on the same day.

Groups across Staffordshire were given notice to quit by the end of March in the move aimed at saving £3 million.

Angry parents held demonstrations and took to social media following the council announcement at the beginning of the year.

The protest was spearheaded by Mrs Allen who contacted Sue Woodward, county councillor for Burntwood North, about a rescue plan.

Both centres were granted a stay of execution, with the county council funding their running costs for a further six months.

It is understood the two Burntwood centres are the only ones in the county to be taken over by parents.

The new group is hoping to receive funding through grants and help from the public sector.

Councillor Woodward said: "It's been quite moving the way people have come forward and pitched in."

"It's good news all round and a great feather in their cap for the Burntwood community."Mrs Allen, whose 18-month-old daughter attended the Springhill centre, organised a petition with fellow parents Shevonne Hodson-Walker, Tracey Matthews and Rachel Marlow.

She said: "It's been tremendously hard work but exciting that it's all come to fruition. I can't think of anything more deserving than helping children and young families."

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