Council to pause proposed Fernbank and Hillside children’s centre closures

Campaigners, parents and students assemble outside Fernbank Children's Centre in Hackney. 

The council has announced a pause on proposals to close Fernbank Children's Centre on Fountayne Road and Hillside Children's Centre on Holmleigh Road - Credit: Moira Gil Perez

Proposals to close two children's centres in the north of Hackney will be paused to allow for wider public engagement, the council has announced. 

The news follows a campaign led by parents to keep Fernbank and Hillside Children's Centres open, which was supported by MP Diane Abbott, councillors, trade union Unison and Hackney's Constituency Labour Parties (CLPs).

The campaign also included a petition signed by more than 1,300 people. 

Cllr Caroline Woodley, portfolio holder for early years, said: “The mayor [of Hackney] and I have listened to the concerns parents have raised and we know there is a huge strength of feeling on this issue, so rather than continue with this process now, we want to take more time to engage with everyone about how we provide services to this community and more widely across Hackney."

Hillside Children's Centre on Holmleigh Road in Stamford Hill

Hillside Children's Centre on Holmleigh Road in Stamford Hill - Credit: Holly Chant

Nearly 900 people responded to a council consultation which closed yesterday, November 16.

It featured plans to close the two Hackney children's centres in order to make significant financial savings over the next few years,  due to the impact of more than a decade of government cuts and the demands of the coronavirus pandemic. 

The council will now delay any closures until a wider review of borough-wide provision for early years services can be completed. 

Broader public engagement will take place next year meaning the centres will not close in September 2022. 

Hackney MP Diane Abbott stands with the parents, staff and children of Fernbank and Hillside children's centres

Hackney North and Stoke Newington MP Diane Abbott stands with the parents, staff and children of Fernbank and Hillside children's centres - Credit: Supplied

The council reports that it spends £542 per child aged 0-4 attending children's centres, compared to a London average of £124 per child.

But it says government funding for early years continues to be reduced in real terms.

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Cllr Woodley added: “But we must be really clear that this pause doesn’t change the reality that there isn’t enough money to continue with our current provision as it is, and we will face very difficult decisions about reducing and reshaping services in the years ahead."

Expectant mum Alexandra Fenton and Matthew Fenton protest over Fernbank and Hillside centres

Expectant mum Alexandra Fenton and Matthew Fenton protest over Fernbank and Hillside centres - Credit: Julia Gregory

The council will also be revealing more details of its wider early years strategy which includes developing early years hubs for children with complex needs and transforming some children's centres into children and family hubs for young people aged 0 to 19 years.