A group of parents and a children’s practitioner in Chessington have said they are alarmed by a Council proposal to close four children’s centres in Kingston and focus services on “outreach”.

At present, parents can get support with issues like postnatal depression or parenting skills at eight centres located in Chessington, Kingston Town, New Malden, Norbiton, North Kingston, Old Malden, Surbiton and Tolworth.

Kingston Council and Achieving for Children have proposed to close the centres in Norbiton, North Kingston, New Malden and Surbiton in order to “reduce costs” and balance its books.

Surrey Comet:

New Malden Children's Centre on Burlington Road

The proposal would see a focus on “outreach” services - for example sessions which are held in temporary venues such as libraries or community centres instead of a permanent building.

The proposal went to consultation on December 13, which is to run until February 1, before it is submitted to the Children’s, Adults’ Care and Education Committee on February 23.

Local children’s centre practitioner Jayne McTamney, 49, claims she quit her job at the Chessington centre in December because she could not go through “another restructuring”.

She added: “The proposed changes are stretching staff to the point where there won’t be staff in centres as there have been.

“If you are going to provide outreach sessions you are not paying for a hub building. I do not think it would be half as valuable.”

Mrs McTamney told Surrey Comet she has brought up a family in Chessington and has personal knowledge of the realities of bringing up a young family in the area.

She added: “You need someone who is going to be there all day every day. You need that support pretty immediately, not the day after.”

Surrey Comet:

Surbiton Children's Centre on Alpha Road

Another mum, Jennifer Lister, 29, who has been visiting her local centre in Chessington for nearly four years, is concerned the proposal will harm families.

Mrs Lister has started an online petition against it, which you can sign on the Kingston Council website until February 28.

Launched on December 30, it had gathered 143 signatures at the time of writing.

She said: “It doesn't make sense that, at a time where children's mental health is in crisis, services that could have a significantly positive influence are being cut.

“I recognise that councils across the country are dealing with a substantial decrease in government funding. This is not a situation that is unique to the borough of Kingston.

“We cannot let austerity impact upon our children and their futures. Looking after our children and families is looking after the future of our country”.

Councillor Diane White, portfolio holder for Children’s Services, said: "It is important that the services offered are what our residents value and would like to see and we are currently asking them for their views on future plans for delivering children's centre services in Kingston.

“The new approach is part of a move nationally to ensure children’s centres are fit for the future and continue to deliver a high quality offer for those that use them."

You can access the consultation by searching “Kingston upon Thames Children's Centres Consultation” on www.afcinfo.org.uk.