Crèche facilities set for the axe?

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AS the people of Angus wait with bated breath to learn where Angus Council will make savings, it has emerged the local authority’s crèche facilities may be among the services about to be axed.

We were contacted on Friday by a local woman who stated there was “a strong possibility” Angus Council will be ceasing to run its crèche facilities from leisure centres from the end of this month.

She said: “Crèche facilities currently run for two hours per day and allow parents to attend gym and exercise classes in the knowledge their children are being well looked after.

“I understand the council is going through a period of drastic cuts; however, I also believe that cutting the crèche services would be a detriment to the local young families’ emotional and physical well being.

“I think this cut would have a bigger knock-on effect on the community at large.

“Parents would be unable to attend classes and therefore unable to visit the leisure centre as a whole, therefore surely reducing leisure services’ income.

“We are also aware of the impact physical exercise has on emotional and mental well being and this is crucial to parents’ and children’s well being, especially to those who otherwise would not get a break.

“The policy on saving monies also seems flawed since the workers will be relocated rather than redundant, therefore no cost savings in wages would be made.

“I believe losing this excellent service would effect our communities at large.”

Her concerns were echoed on Monday when we were contacted by another local mother who spoke out about the possible loss of crèche facilities.

She, too, had been made aware of the proposal to close the “excellent crèche facilities” at the Lochside Leisure Centre, and other similar crèches at Angus Council leisure facilities.

In arguing against “this disastrous action” she said: “As a frequent user of the crèche facilities at Lochside Leisure Centre since the birth of my first child three years ago, were this most precious of services withdrawn I fear the knock on effect could be devastating for a community of people who rely on such a valuable facility.

“The crèche offers support for parents/carers. Due to the nature of having a young family, many of the users can only use the leisure centre facilities if a crèche facility is available.

“I would hazard a guess that 99% of carers who use the crèche are women. There has been much in the news recently about the need for crucial services to support new mothers to return to fitness during and after birth. Obesity is an increasing problem in expectant and new mums. Surely it is the local authority’s responsibility to provide and maintain services to support the health of its community?”

She highlighted a report from Cancer Research UK which claimed only last week that one in eight women will develop breast cancer - with lifestyle factors, including lack of exercise, being partly to blame.

She continued: “Surely taking away an opportunity to embrace a healthy lifestyle at one of the most important times in a woman’s life flies in the face of NHS recommendations and Scottish Executive’s policies to tackle Scotland’s increasing health bill.

“An early awareness in the benefits of physical exercise for children is crucial. Scotland has one of the poorest health records in Europe. Obesity rates in Scotland are on the increase. The crèche facility provides a gateway to many families for the additional activities (for children) provided by Angus Council.”

She questioned if Angus Council had considered the financial consequence of losing the creche.

She warned: “BActive memberships (individual and family) would be cancelled as many parents/carers will not be able to use the facilities without the two hour service currently provided. Class sizes will diminish and a whole community which I have been a part of will just crumble.

“Personally I will have to cancel my BActive membership and try and find other, most likely privately run, facilities elsewhere.”

She concluded: “I understand cuts and savings are necessary in this current climate. But I cannot help but think the decision to close the crèche is short-sighted and the implications and knock-on effects have not been considered.

“From what I understand the crèche has been operational for perhaps 20-30 years. It has never run at a profit and staff would be redeployed should the crèche close. So what savings will be made when you balance up the loss of income, from cancelled memberships and crèche fees, through closing the crèche?

“The resources are there: the newly built Portocabin is in place, toys are available and the staff are in place. Surely a better strategy would be to market the crèche facilities to its target audience?

“Targeting playgroups, nurseries, child-minder groups, drop in health clinics, libraries seem obvious choices, but as far as I am aware this pro-active option has never been adopted.

“But surely a local authority’s role is to provide crucial services to its community, not run as a private business to make profit.”

A spokesperson for Angus Council confirmed crèche facilities are one of the proposals in the budget and a decision will be taken on Thursday (tomorrow).