Parents tell Sefton Central Labour MP Bill Esterson Tory-Lib Dem

Bill Esterson MP with mums Pauline Connolly, Monica Silcock and Jane Bolan and children Christopher Bolan, Alice Connolly, Peter Silcock, Lizzie Silcock and James Bolan

Sefton Central Labour MP Bill Esterson has met with concerned parents who say the closure of Sefton's youth centres will be devastating for their children.

Bill met with a group of parents who use the centres which are located throughout Sefton.

The centre is one ear marked for closure under Conservative-Liberal Democrat cuts.

Jane Bolan lives in Aintree and her two special needs sons go to the Oriel Drive Centre in Aintree Village which she says is a lifeline for parents like her.

She said: "As parents we don't get any other respite and we don't access any other services. We need some help to give us a break and also to give our children the type of social interaction and stimulation they need.

"It's like parents with able bodied teenagers saying to their children that they can't use their phones and can't communicate with people outside. These kids would go berserk. When you think that our children rely on the youth centres to communicate with other children. Closing them down is closing down their social network.

"These centres give them friends. They give them an independence away from their parents and family. They rely on the centres for that service.

"These are the only people that I've left my boys with. The staff are fully skilled in the needs of children like my boys and they have had a lot of experience in dealing with children with special needs, and probably more importantly, we all have a lot of trust in them.

"The staff are fully trained and they have people there like Karen who really are a total asset to the centre, to Sefton and to our children."

Jane said there could wider implications on employment in Sefton when youth centres are closed.

She said: "My husband employs 15 people from Sefton. If he had to give up his job to help me look after the boys then that would mean the there would be another 15 people unemployed - that's 15 Sefton families who are having to cope with unemployment.

"People will have to give up their jobs to ensure that their children are being cared for because of these closures.

"They are picking on the most vulnerable to make these cuts.

"In their manifestos and on their websites, the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives say they are there to look after children. But with these cuts to services which our children rely on, they are doing the exact opposite."

Mum Pauline Connolly whose daughter uses the services agrees, saying the Tories and Lib Dems have let parents and children down.

She said: "Considering David Cameron had a disabled child himself, I can't believe he'd do this to us, but then again I imagine he had the money to pay for the care and support his child needed.

"Parents like us don't have that luxury and we rely on the services provided by the youth centres.

"It's just so wrong that services which we rely on and the skilled staff from Sefton Youth Services are being axed.

"They don't understand the implications of what they are doing. This is the first time many of our children have had a social life. Children like ours get a lot out of the youth centres, probably most importantly they get some independence.

"It would be criminal if they take that way from us and our children."

Crosby mum Monica Silcock's daughter also uses the centre. She said the services provided by the youth centres are accessed by lots of families and said the leader of the Liberal Democrats in Sefton is wrong when he says the services are under utilised.

Monica said: "The talk that the centre is under-utilised just isn't right.  There's a waiting list for the centres. Saying otherwise is just a smokescreen for justifying the closures.

"The services which the youth centres provided provide value for money for Sefton and for the parents who use them.

"What would happen if we all said we are putting our children in care? The expense would be much greater than running these youth centres. We are providing a valuable and cost effective service, we just want a little support nothing else. And that's exactly what the youth centres provide us."

Speaking after the meeting, Sefton Central Labour MP Bill Esterson said the parents had put heart wrenching and compelling cases to save the youth centres which Sefton's councillors must listen to.

Bill said: "It's very clear after speaking to Jane, Monica and Pauline and their children that the youth centres are an invaluable part of their lives.

"The services that these youth centres provide are crucial to the lives of the children and their parents and we cannot allow them to close down.

"That's why my Labour colleagues on Sefton council, members of the Labour Action Teams and myself are all opposing these closures and we will do all we can to get the Tories and Lib Dems to come to their senses and see what damage they are doing by bringing the axe down on the youth centres."

Leader of the Labour Group in Sefton, Cllr Peter Dowd, said the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats were cutting the services without assessing the full impact of the closures.

Cllr Dowd said: "What is clear from these cuts is that the Lib Dems and Tories haven't looked into the true cost of the closure of these centres. What is the long term damage they are doing by shutting them down?

"The full impact hasn't been assessed and they are being negligent in the way they are swinging the axe.

"That's why the Labour group is fighting tooth and nail to oppose the cuts."

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