Wandsworth Council is currently consulting residents on their plans to “de-designate” the Garratt Park Children’s Centre in Earlsfield.
Sadiq Khan, MP for Tooting, said: “We know how important free early years support is both for children’s development and in terms of the support it provides to parents, so I am very concerned that the Council is considering leaving Earlsfield without any free provision for children under three”.
Currently, the Garratt Park site is home to a nursery group in the morning and in the afternoon it offers parents free stay and play facilities for babies and young children. The Centre also offers free outreach to families needing extra support on the Henry Prince Estate.
The Council’s current proposals are to continue with the nursery provision in the morning but to consider the introduction of a charge for the stay and play facilities in the afternoon and to scrap the targeted services currently available to eligible families.
Sadiq Khan said: “The Garratt Park Centre provides a vital free service to the families on the Henry Prince Estate, where I grew up. If they remove this support, the Council would effectively be obliging parents to pay for a service they currently receive for free or travel some distance, with young children, to find an alternative. To make matters worse, the alternatives, at Smallwood School or West Hill, are already oversubscribed.”
Earlsfield Councillor Rachael Stokes, a regular user of the Garratt Park Centre, said: “I am worried by these proposals which I fear could convert the current Centre into another private nursery for richer parents, rather than the wonderful, community-wide resource it needs to be. Although I use the centre regularly, I was not told about the consultation and nor were several other parents of babies I have spoken to”.
Sadiq Khan said: “The consultation has been sub-standard and misleading as it hasn’t included many of the users and it does not fully explain what the new arrangements would cost parents. I would urge residents to have their say by responding to the consultation with any concerns they have”.
The consultation is available here and will end on 24 May.
This post also appears on the Labour in Wandsworth blog