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Parents unite against children's centre handover plans
WORRIED parents have joined forces in their fight against possible changes to staffing at five children's centres around south Bucks.
Plans to transfer the operation of the Sure Start centres from Buckinghamshire County Council to children's charity Barnardo's have been met with unrest by parents who use the centres.
They say they have not been given enough proof of the benefits of the move and are confused as to why changes can't be implemented in 2014, when the current care contract runs out.
It's led to parents whose children use the centres, in East Wycombe, Chalfont St Giles, Bourne End, Wooburn Green and Marlow, to present a united front against the proposals.
Maddy Sykes, Chairperson of the Wycombe East Parents' Forum, said: "We've all agreed to work together on the campaign and support each other where we can.
"There's a lot of frustration because of a lack of consultation. We just want a fair decision to be made."
An online petition against plans to transfer care of the East Wycombe centres to Barnardo's was signed by nearly 500 people, while similar campaigns for the Wooburn and Marlow centres are live until Wednesday March 20.
Mrs Sykes said: "There's nothing set in stone that proves Barnardo's are a better option and outsourcing the services is better for Sure Start.
"In 2014 everything goes out for tendering. We are now in March, a decision hasn't been made. When it's made and implemented, there's a handover period for staff. Barnardo's will only really take over in May - what's the point in taking over for a nine month period only to go through it all again?
"Barnardo's have no track record of managing day centres in Bucks. We've asked for this evidence but it's never been presented to us."
Parents are concerned at the effect the planned changes will have on staffing, continuity of services and relationships with outside providers.
Mrs Sykes said: "We are happy with the family support workers and the work they have put into the community. It doesn't make sense to get somebody in completely new, only to have that person either taken away or re-evaluated come 2014."
Mike Appleyard, the council's Cabinet Member for Education and Skills, said no decision on the future of the children’s centres had been made but he understood parents' concerns about potential change, having met with them and answered their questions.
He said: "I want to assure parents that my aim is to achieve the best outcome for our children. I'm still considering feedback, and I'll be meeting with parents from all five centres before making a decision."
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