A group of around 20 parents occupied their local children’s centre yesterday, Wednesday, in protest at cuts. The occupation was continuing this morning.
The Alton Activity Centre is used by hundreds of parents and children in Roehampton, south London. But Tory-led Wandsworth council decided to cut funding for it in December.
Zahra Ali has used the centre for around 12 years. She told Socialist Worker, “The centre is a beautiful thing. All children can go there and do all kinds of activities. Parents can also get together there, and we bring food and socialise.
“And on top of that it’s free.”
Zahra is a nurse and explained the pressure of trying to balance work with childcare. “In the past I’d be working and feeling guilty as a mum,” she said. “You have to beg someone to pick up your child from school, or push them into going to after-school clubs.
“My son wasn’t happy. And at times I used to pay £25 a day for childcare. Then I found out this place existed.”
Zahra said that parents organised to visit council meetings and put their case. They spoke to councillors and explained why the centre is so valuable.
She said, “The councillors said they would come back to us. They didn’t. “They made a plan without even consulting us. They’re just not listening. It isn’t fair.”
Now parents have been told that different services will be offered from the centre. One leaflet refers to a play session on Mondays and Tuesdays only between 3 and 6pm. As Zahra put it, “What nurse only works for two days a week?
“This used to be open for five days a week all day.”
The centre is in the middle of an area of “regeneration” in Roehampton. Zahra said, “This has nothing to do with providing anything for us. They just want the land.
“We love this building. Our children were so happy here. This is the poorest area in the whole of Wandsworth. We have problems with drugs and gangs.
“We’re not asking for a lot. All we want is a safe place for children to play.”