PARENTS say they have been made to feel isolated after the loss of Sure Start centres that help families and children.

A study from Action For Children shows there has been a 20 per cent drop in children using the centres because of cuts. They are having to stretch their facilities and even more centres have closed across the country.


Sure Start gives a helping hand with learning skills, health and emotional development. Swindon saw all 12 of its centres close by 2016 and parents say that has left them without the support they need.

Lorraine Pengilley, 38, from North Swindon told the Adver: “When I moved to Swindon there wasn’t anything other than going to a toddler group where it’s just singing.

But when she lived in London she had access to Sure Start. “We did gardening courses and even a parenting course. It helps just meeting other mums and having people to talk to, because most women have post partum depression,”she said.

Swindon Advertiser:

Swindon isn’t the only town to see the loss of this support system. Because of council spending cuts deprived areas have seen the biggest drop - 22 per cent.

Two of Lorraine's three children needed to have surgery when they were newborns and this wouldn’t have been spotted if she hadn’t had a health visitor from the centre.

But in Swindon her son went a year without getting help for a squint in his eye, because of the lack of health visitors in the area. Lorraine said: “Health visitors in Swindon are like unicorns. There isn’t a lot of resources in Swindon.”

She told the Adver she wants to move somewhere with better resources, but two of her children could have attention deficit disorder. They have been referred for a diagnosis, but moving would mean the process would have to start again. She said: “There will definitely be people slipping through the cracks who need help and definitely vulnerable children.”

As reported in the Adver last week, Labour councillors have called for the centres to be brought back because they improved the health of the poorest children in Swindon, according to a report by the Institute for Fiscal Studies

Labour party prospective Parliamentary candidate Kate Linnegar, who highlighted the issue again this week, said: “I think it’s a false economy to close them. Because there are reports that if children don’t get the support, they will go to hospital further down the line which will cost the them.

It’s depriving our children of the best start they can have. It’s a lifesaving service.”

Council leader David Renard said: “Our experience of children’s centres here in Swindon was that they were often not reaching the most vulnerable families who needed support. Following an assessment of the centres, it was decided to close them in order to invest in people rather than buildings and to extend the help provided through the integrated families programme which took the support into the homes of those families.”