Concern over children's centre future
A CONSULTATION on children's services by Somerset County Council has sparked fears that a vital service in Wincanton could come under threat.
Parent Chris Hill has started a petition to safeguard the future of the children's centre at Balsam Centre in Balsam Park, Wincanton.
Mr Hill is concerned that the centre will lose funding after the county council's public consultation asking for views to help decide how and where services will operate in future.
He fears other areas of Somerset, such as Bridgwater, Yeovil and Taunton, will be deemed more in need despite strong support for the Balsam Centre from Wincanton residents.
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He said: "We are not classed as a family in need, because I work full time in a good job, own my own home and are not known to social services but during the time of my wife's pregnancy and in the first months of my daughter's life we were in serious need of help.
"The Balsam Centre and its amazing team most definitely saved my family, because they can offer a joined up service and can access support from a whole range of services, from health visitors to councillors. They saved us and I know they have done the same for countless families."
Mum Emma Sayer, 30, has used the centre frequently for play groups and health advice since the birth of her two-year-old son. She describes it as a "vital service" in the town and has signed the petition and filled out the online consultation.
Tim Carroll, chairman of the board of trustees at the Balsam Centre, said: "Our future is in the hands of the county council.
"All of the courses we run from the centre are oversubscribed, so the demand is definitely there, and last year we expanded the nursery provision, which is a core part of our activities.
"There would be a significant effect if there was any change in the situation.
"We appreciate the support that people show us. We do urge people to make their representations not just through the survey but also through their councillors."
Somerset County Council cabinet member for children and families, councillor Frances Nicholson, said: "No decisions have been made. We want as many people as possible to give us their feedback so we can understand their thoughts and priorities. We need to make sure Children's Centre Services are organised and operating in a way that gets the support to the people who need it most in the most effective and efficient way."
Residents can access the online survey by visiting http://www.somersetconsults.org.uk/consult.ti