Young mother starts petition to save Marlborough's Corner House Children's Centre from closure
Jemma Clarke is determined that Marlborough's Sure Start services at the Corner House Children's Centre in the George Lane car park must be saved from closure by Wiltshire Council. She comes regularly with her young son to the Centre from Aldbourne and knows from personal experience how helpful - often essential - it can be for young mothers with small children.
As Marlborough News Online has reported, Wiltshire Council want to close the centre next year and is running a low-key consultation on their decision until November 6.
Jemme Clarke has organised a petition with the website change.org. And she needs to get 350 signatures by November 6 so Wiltshire Council cannot simply ignore it. At the last count she had 115 signatures and if reading the comments below Jemma Clarke's plea for support, shows the strength of feeling this closure is up against.
Standing outside the Centre with her friend Sarah-Jane Mallett, Jemma Clarke told Marlborough News Online: "The reason we're so passionate about keeping it is that it's helped us practically - whether it's help to stop smoking or advice about money."
Many families use the centre regularly and many more come for specific help sessions - for counselling, CV workshops, money advice and there is also an outreach programme. Health visitors use rooms at the centre.
There are 603 families with under-fives in the area and 586 of those are registered with the Corner House Children's Centre - that adds up to 1,083 registered under-fives.
Wiltshire Council are aiming to save £400,000 by cutting all but fifteen of their thirty Sure Start Centres.
The Wiltshire Council website explains why, up to now, they have continued to support Sure Start Children's Centres: "The main purpose of a children's centre is to provide support for parents, carers and their under 5's so that all children can be happy, healthy and achieve great things in life."
The website continues: "Wiltshire Council is very proud that all of its children’s centres are run by voluntary organisations."
Marlborough Area parents needing the services will - after July 2016 - be directed to the Pewsey centre: "Now for some who drive yes that's okay," says Jemma, "but the majority of young parents in Marlborough don't have that opportunity."
The consultation document details the closures and says of the Corner House Centre: "There are other buildings in the community that are suitable for delivery of children's centre services." Jemma responds: "Yes, they have said they plan to still run the groups from other venues in the area, but some of the organisations don't have the funding themselves to hire rooms to offer their services."
Marlborough News Online spoke to one young mother who had been in an abusive relationship and had been helped by staff at the Centre to complete a Freedom Programme course.