Today we say goodbye to the staff team at Sure Start Children's Centre Western Tynedale in Haltwhistle. Our contract to manage the Children’s Centre on behalf of Northumberland County Council is ending, the County Council has decided to manage the Children's Centre itself and our staff team are transferring to become employees of Northumberland Count Council.
Children North East has worked in Western Tynedale for 18 years when the Rural Action for Families in Tynedale (RAFT) first started. RAFT toured isolated villages in a converted double decker bus offering the same sorts of services now provided by Children's Centres. In 2002 in conjunction with the Haltwhistle Partnership, we set up a prototype Children's Centre in a shop on Haltwhistle High Street. In 2007 when the present building opened, we won the contract from Northumberland County Council to manage the Children's Centre services and have done so ever since.
We have cooperated fully with the County Council to ensure a smooth transfer of responsibility for the Children's Centre in the interests of the families who use the Centre and our staff. However we did challenge the decision of the County Council to take over management of the Children's Centre on the grounds of lack of consultation, lack of communication about the reasons for the decision and unfairness because all other contracts with VCS organisations to manage Children’s Centres in the county have been extended until March 2012. We had local support however when the County Council eventually responded it was clear that they would not be moved.
During the course of the TUPE negotiations it became clear that the County Council's motivation is to save money by amalgamating management and staffing of all the Children’s Centres in Tynedale which may mean limiting opening hours and a reduced service to families.
We feel we have an obligation to families in Tynedale to do what we can to ensure they continue to have access to the same services as at present. So I have written to the MP for Tynedale to tell him our fear that families may suffer as a result of the County Council's decision.
Children North East is proud of the difference that our staff and volunteers have made for families in Tynedale over 18 years. In particular the present staff team at the Children's Centre who achieved a resounding ‘good’ in all aspects of the Ofsted inspection last autumn to add to national awards in former years. We are leaving a strong legacy in Haltwhistle and outreach to the surrounding communities.
I hope that Sure Start Children’s Centre Western Tynedale will continue to thrive and wish the staff every success for the future.