Lambeth cutting family centre funds | Letters

All councils have to react to government cuts – the test is how, says David Hopkins. Plus Dr Harry Harmer considers austerity’s legacy

We read with interest Zoe Williams’ article “Red-on-red-warfare won’t stop austerity” (Red-on-red-warfare won’t stop austerity, 29 January) and Cllr Jack Hopkins’ subsequent response (Letters, 1 February).

Coin Street family and children’s centre is one of the five centres that Lambeth council is proposing to withdraw funding from. Unlike other children’s centres in the borough, our Ofsted “outstanding” centre is run by social enterprise Coin Street Community Builders. We invest our own income, generated from a range of commercial activities, into supporting an 84-place nursery and more than 70 hours of free and affordable activities every week for families, children, young people, adults and older people. We make our building available without charge for these programmes and we work closely with local volunteers and partners including Guys and St Thomas’ Hospital, Rambert Dance Company, and the Colombo Centre who make staff, trainers and specialist facilities available without charge for the activities we organise. Both Lambeth and Southwark councils refer families at risk or facing complex challenges to our highly experienced and committed staff for one-to-one support. Why would a local council not want such a partner?

Cllr Hopkins, leader-elect, rightly references the government’s £1.4m cut to Lambeth’s schools grant. But, in a context where councils are increasingly wanting to pass their responsibilities on to others, a wise council will build rather than sever long-term relationships with those in the community willing to support them. We note that all the children’s centres that Lambeth proposes to keep are run by schools. Coin Street is not. Our family and children’s centre doesn’t stop at 5pm on Friday: we are busy seven days a week with families of all ages and run programmes throughout the year. The toddlers who once enjoyed messy play with us are now preteens getting weekly homework tutoring at the centre or teenage members of our youth club leading debates on knife crime. Long-term relationships mean better outcomes and we’re here for the long haul.

All councils have to react to government cuts; the test is how.
David Hopkins
Director of community, Coin Street Community Builders

• If a future historian writes about the Cameron-Clegg austerity coalition of 2010-15, they could do no better than to quote this sentence from Roger Pepworth’s eloquent letter (Letters, 4 February) as its epitaph: “I only know that the dreams that Sharron, a lovely child, had until her death, have perished in the wreckage of an austerity programme that has literally killed her and her like.” Cameron, Clegg and Osborne have of course moved on and are, as the saying goes, “doing alright”.
Dr Harry Harmer
Shrewsbury, Shropshire

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