Report from Nadia Edmond (for updates see Brighton Children’s Centre Campaign page)
On Friday 30th January, thirty parents, carers and others concerned about the threat to Children’s Centres in Brighton and Hove (see Save our Children’s Centres on our Early Years page) met at the Brighthelm to establish a campaign to fight proposed cuts. All were passionate about saving Childen’s Centres but equally passionate that this should not be at the expense of cuts elsewhere. There was an overwhelming rejection of austerity and cuts.
We agreed on the name Brighton Children’s Centre Campaign and the founding statement (available on the campaign’s Facebook page). A demonstration is being planned for the Council budget meeting on 26th Feb.
There was concern that this grassroots campaign needed to establish itself before engaging with political parties and Patrick Lowe (council candidate for UKIP in Bevendean) and a Green council candidate were asked to leave. It is ironic that the Argus has since published an article which quotes Patrick Lowe, a so-called ‘education expert’, as saying it was “extremely important children developed skills such as reading at an early stage before attending school”. Yet the consensus amongst those that could more justifiably lay claim to educational expertise (see for example the speakers at out early years event in October) is that the aim of early years care and education should not be reduced to ‘school readiness’.
It is also interesting to read of Patrick Lowe’s commitment to saving Children’s Centres when the last published UKIP policy on Children’s Centres was to “merge Early Years’ Funding, Sure Start, the childcare element of Working Tax Credit and the tax relief on Employer Nursery Vouchers into a flat-rate, non-means tested ‘Nursery Voucher’ to cover approximately half the cost of a full-time nursery place.” i.e. to do away with Children’s Centres altogether! Admittedly this was from the 2010 UKIP policy document but the total absence of any policy statement on Children’s Centres since the last UKIP conference is not reassuring. Until UKIP publish a new policy on Children’s Centres we can only assume that their last policy statement still holds. At the very least all those seeking our votes need to demonstrate their party’s position in relation to the funding of Children’s Centres and other care and education provision and the austerity agenda which threatens them all.