Future of Preston children's centre in doubt once again

Campaigners gathered at The Star in Ashton
Campaigners gathered at The Star in Ashton
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Campaigners fighting for the future of a children’s centre in Preston say they are disappointed that it has been put back on a list of locations which are likely to stop delivering family wellbeing services.

The Ashton Young People’s Centre on Tulketh Crescent, known locally as The Star, was given a temporary reprieve back in November when Lancashire County Council’s cabinet voted to give “further consideration” to a total of 14 facilities - and select seven which would no longer operate as a family wellbeing hub.

READ MORE >>> A dozen children's centres to stop offering family wellbeing services

It will once again be recommended that The Star stops delivering family support programmes when cabinet discusses refreshed proposals in April.

The authority has said that the services themselves will continue - either from other locations or delivered directly into residents’ homes. As part of the same process, the Riverbank Children’s Centre on Brieryfield Road will be recommended to continue to provide family services.

But campaigners fighting to save The Star have said that any decision to stop using the facility for family services could put its entire future in jeopardy.

While some of the children’s centres could remain open for other purposes after a review of their usage, Labour opposition councillor Gillian Oliver fears the 90-year-old Star would almost certainly shut - leaving the youth groups which use it with nowhere to go.

“Once it’s gone, it’s gone - we would never get it back,” said County Cllr Oliver, who represents the Preston South West division where the centre is based.

“I think there is more which could be done to market the facility to Ashton families beyond those who receive the council’s specialist services from the building.

“At a time of rising crime in the area, it is a short-sighted decision which will deplete the public purse in the long run. I’m disappointed that it seems to have been based on a desk exercise about the number of people who currently use it,” she added.

A recent event campaigning for the future of The Star attracted several families whose use of the facility spanned the generations. Kellie Dunkley’s eleven-year-old daughter Maisy goes to the Thursday evening youth club at the venue - just like her Mum did when she was that age.

“We played games with our friends and learned how to cook - and that’s what Maisy gets to do now,” Kellie said.

“It’s particularly good for families who are struggling, because nearly everything is free and the children can get a hot meal there.

“It also keeps them off the streets at a time when they are getting more independent - I was a bit of a rebel and it gave me something to do,” Kellie adds.

Lancashire County Council says that its model for delivering family services will remain “flexible according to need”. The authority says that it has considered several factors about which buildings to continue using for family support programmes, including their accessibility and the cost of making the facilities fit for the future. The proposed changes are part of a £1.25m reduction approved as part of last year's budget process.

It was confirmed in November that two other Preston-based centres - the Sunshine and Cherry Tree children's centres - along with one in Coppull, would no longer provide family wellbeing services from the county council.

A final decision on the remaining proposals will be taken by cabinet in April, but some recommendations - including for The Star - have already been made public.

A second public consultation for the Burnley and Rossendale areas runs until 8th March - but there is no further consultation exercise planned for any other districts.

WHAT’S THE PLAN?

The following recommendations will be put to cabinet in April:

Children’s centres which will no longer deliver family services:

Ashton Young People's Centre, Preston (12-19+)

Ribblesdale Children's Centre, Clitheroe (0-11)

Walton Lane Children's Centre, Nelson (0-11)

Children’s centres which will continue to deliver family services:

Riverbank Children's Centre, Preston (0-11)

The Zone, Clitheroe (12-19+)

The Zone, Nelson (12-19+)

Longridge Young People's Centre, Longridge (12-19+)*

Willow's Park Children's Centre, Longridge (0-11)*

*subject to further discussions

In Burnley and Rossendale, the proposal, subject to the outcome of the ongoing public consultation is:

To stop delivering family services from:

Stoneyholme and Daneshouse Young People's Centre, Burnley (12-19+)

Padiham Young People's Centre, Padiham (12-19+)

Whitworth Young People's Centre, Whitworth (12-19+)

Whitworth Children's Centre, Whitworth (0-11)

To continue delivering family services from:

The Chai Centre, Burnley (0-11)

Whitegate Children’s Centre, Burnley (0-11)

Whitworth Library (not included in original consultation last year)