You may have caught my live Facebook video earlier if you follow my page but today, Jack and I skipped Baby Bounce and Rhyme in favour of joining other families in a protest at the local council offices against proposed closures of all 19 children’s centres in Medway where we live.
Medway is not the most affluent of places and in fact has a bit of a reputation (at least where I’m from in neighbouring Maidstone) for being dingy and drab. However in recent years things have been improving – the introduction of the fast speed rail link has seen an influx of professionals from the city moving this way, construction of new housing is everywhere and plans to rejuvenate old buildings are in place so things are looking up.
Since living in Medway, I have been pleasantly suprised with what it has to offer, particularly in terms of what’s available for families. In fact, I was only saying to James a few weeks ago that if we were to move house in the future, it would be a shame to lose everything Medway has to offer.
But now that’s all going to change.
Medway Council want to close all 19 children’s centres across the whole of Medway and instead create 4 “super-hubs” providing similar services. Part of the money (£60,000) they will be saving from doing this will also be used for a fireworks display at the upcoming Battle of Medway events.
Excuse my French but what the actual hell are they thinking?! They want to literally see money go up in smoke to celebrate a battle which happened 350 years ago – and we didn’t even win!!! I think I’d find it more acceptable if that money was going towards something worthwhile but fireworks! Seriously!
But that’s not all. The whole idea of children’s centres are that they are supposed to be easily accessible, are available every day of the week, are somewhere where people can meet, socialise, seek help and get support, and help towards the wellbeing and development of both parents and children.
Medway, although improving in some areas, is still socially deprived so if families don’t drive, or have money to get the bus – how are they expected to travel to these superhubs? There will be less staff in these hubs but still the same number of families to support – how many children with issues such as developmental delay or autism, or who those who sadly aren’t looked after as well as they should be, be missed?!
What about pre and postnatal depression and mental health in general? Parenting is HARD and it would be very easy to never leave the house some days but because of the children’s centres, families have somewhere to go for support, to speak to other parents, make friends, have access to professionals and to feel reassured that they are doing ok. Without these centres, families are going to suffer big time.
Breastfeeding support! I have recently joined a breastfeeding group at the childrens centre and have met some lovely ladies because I felt that I needed to speak to other breastfeeding women as I don’t know anyone else doing it. As I’ve mentioned before, Medway has a really low percentage of breastfeeding mothers which will probably sink again if the centres close because the support won’t be accessible to enough people!
I could go on and on but you get the gist. I am angry. I bet the council haven’t even set foot in a children’s centre before. They don’t seem to realise what a detrimental effect this will have on so many people.
So, I took out my felt tips and made a load of posters and this morning we joined the picket line! I’ve never protested about anything before but Mama Bear came out and you know what, I had a really good time! I spoke to other mums, I was interviewed by BBC South East Today and BBC Radio Kent, I waved my posters proudly above my head and chanted “Save our children’s centres. Medway children matter”. Because they do and as Jack is one of them I will do anything I can to make sure he has everything he needs to help him in life and if that means standing up for what is right then I will bloody well do it!
You can watch my BBC interview here where along with my friend Kate we express our concerns about the proposals:
(Weather permitting, we are going to a protest picnic on Sunday at Rochester Castle – if you are in the area, come and join us in the modern day Battle of Medway and show your support!)