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Thousands of Havering families left in limbo after council cuts charity funding

PUBLISHED: 13:45 12 August 2016 | UPDATED: 16:51 12 August 2016

Home-Start Havering music and movement workshop.

Home-Start Havering music and movement workshop.

Archant

Thousands of families have been left in limbo after the council cut funding to a charity which delivers vital one-to-one support and play groups across the borough.

Maria Paterlini-Phillips with her son Nico Paterlini and daughter Casiopea.Maria Paterlini-Phillips with her son Nico Paterlini and daughter Casiopea.

Home-Start Havering, Spilsby Road, Harold Hill, has been forced to use its reserves to continue support for parents and children who rely on the service for practical help, getting to hospital appointments and coping with isolation and depression.

Scheme manager Lorraine Clear said the organisation is “deeply disappointed” with the news, with staff upset their long relationship with the council has “come to this.”

“Situations can deteriorate quite rapidly if parents feel isolated in the community,” she told the Recorder.

“Lots of families have been asking us what is going to happen, the council told us they will try and continue, but they haven’t got anything in place at the moment.”

Maria Paterlini-Phillips, 36, of Rainham, said many parents are “appalled” by the news and rely on the service to build support networks.

“It’s terrible, the group is one of the only decent things which is free in the borough,” she said.

“It is a lifeline for a lot of people.”

The council announced that the services delivered by the charity will be transferred to the borough’s children’s centres,

Cllr Robert Benham, the council’s cabinet member for children and learning, said the cuts were required as part of a voluntary sector review and will save £59,000 a year.

“The services, which will launch fully this September, will be able to offer even more groups and activities for families with children under five,” he said.

“Story time will also be available on top of music and movement that Home-Start provided.

“Both organisations have a well-trained group of volunteers to support the work.”

But Lorraine Clear, Home-Start Havering’s scheme manager, called the cuts a “false economy” and argued they would prove more expensive in the long run.

“I don’t see how the children centres can do the work we do on top of all the work they already do.

“It will not be a saving of £59,000 as they will have to employ more staff to run the services,” she said.

Home-Start Havering is writing bids and appealing to businesses and charities for donations to continue play sessions and one-to-one work.

Maria Paterlini–Phillips, who has used the service for about three years, said: “The volunteers are so welcoming, my daughter asks if she can go to their session every day.”

Cllr Benham said he looked forward to a “renewed partnership” with the charity and will meet with staff to ensure a “joined-up response to those families who need support”.

For more information on Home-Start Havering, call 01708 455551.

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