Hampshire & Isle of Wight

Hampshire County Council shuts down children's centres

Protesters outside Lyndhurst Community Centre
Image caption The closures are part of plans to save £8.5m from the council's budget and would see 54 centres reduced to 11

A local authority has approved the closure of most of its children's centres, which support struggling young families.

Hampshire County Council said it would replace them with a centralised support service to save £8.5m.

The council said only 11 of its 54 centres would remain, in areas of "high deprivation".

But the protest group Save Our Children's Centres (SOCC) said it was hoping to mount a legal challenge.

SOCC founder Catherine Ovenden said she would be seeking legal advice about the prospect of a crowdfunded judicial review.

Chris Kidd, the chairman of the New Forest cluster of centres, said he was "bitterly disappointed" at the council decision.

"Now no longer can you get help on the day - it's going to be around appointments and travelling... and the ease of accessing that service is long gone," he said.

Image caption Lynn Tolmon said the Starfish centre on Hayling Island "picked me up off the floor when I didn't know how to carry on".

One mother, Lynn Tolmon from Hayling Island, said the lack of local centres would deter many parents from seeking help.

She said: "I can't really put into words how much I owe the Starfish centre. They picked me up off the floor when I didn't know how to carry on."

Hampshire County Council said its 54 existing centres helped around 2000 families at any one time, with issues such as postnatal depression and child behaviour.

The council said it would combine centres, so-called 'Early Help Hubs' and youth support services into a single Family Support Service targeted at those most in need.

Councillor Keith Mans, in charge of children's services, said the decision had been made in the light of "profound" government cuts.

He said: "This decision has not been easy but I am satisfied that this new service will support those who are most vulnerable... but who do not meet the threshold for statutory social care, while ensuring that comprehensive information... is provided for all."

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites