Wandsworth Council has decided to close of the Alton Activity Centre which is based within the Roehampton regeneration area. The Centre is used by hundreds of local people children from 3 to 15 and their parents. The story featured on the front page of the Wandsworth Guardian on January 28.
At the Council meeting on 9th December the Tory councillors voted to cut the staffing and funding of this Centre as part of a £1.4m spending reduction for ‘Early Years’ services.
This Centre is a child care facility provided by a Council through a contract to a child care organisation called Spurgeons. The Alton Activity Centre offers skilled and experienced child care staff who provide after school activities, weekend and holiday activities as well as working with parents.
The Alton Activity Centre caters for children who experience a wide range of learning and other difficulties. A wide range of needs are addressed: Children with low self-esteem, disabled children and those with special educational needs, children involved in domestic abuse, special help for children and their peers experiencing bullying, and those with obesity and weight problems.
Also, the Centre supports parents through a number of mutual self-help groups.
The Alton Estate is an area of high need and is in the middle of the ‘regeneration area’ which has been designated for environmental and social improvements by the Council.
The Council’s plan to stop providing these services at the end of March 2016. This decision has come as a shock to local families who had not been forewarned that this was likely to happen.
Labour Councillor Jeremy Ambache who represents the Roehampton area said:
“This is a short sighted decision and by the Council as these services are hugely valued by the local children and families.
“Highly skilled staff from Spurgeon’s offer a variety of services which meet the needs of children with considerable problems and difficulties. It takes time and costs money to build such a staff team offering effective services for children and families – and by closing down this will be lost.
“The decision has been taken hurriedly and was managed badly by the Council as it failed to involve local people including the three local Councillors.
“The Alton is an area of high need where these family services in great demand. The services provided by Spurgeons at this Centre are a vital lifeline for many local children and families living in the area.
“It is quite wrong for the Council to stop the current services that take a lot of time and resources to develop as they hope to re-establish some new services for children.
“As part of the Regeneration programme the Council had promised to help build up a stronger community and better services on the Alton Estate. Sadly by taking this decision close the current services the Council is doing the exact opposite of what was promised!
“The Council have an ambition (which has not been worked out in any detail) to continue using this facility for children. But they do not know who will do this will be achieved! Also, they do not know how this will be funded! This decision to close this facility is quite irresponsible as it is squandering a well-used and well run provision.
“This decision by the Tories on the Council shows that they know the cost of everything but the value of nothing! This is an awful news to give at Christmas time to the children, parents and staff.”