MSP speaks out against Midlothian Sure Start cuts

Thursday February 9th 2023


Concerned parents with Craig Hoy MSP (centre) and Cheryl Brown from Midlothian Sure Start (centre_left-of-Craig-Hoy).

Written by Midlothian View Reporter, Luke Jackson

Conservative MSP for South Scotland, Craig Hoy, has supported a petition launched by concerned parents from Midlothian to prevent the possible closure of up to three early learning centres in the county.

Last week, Midlothian Council announced that they are considering significant spending cuts to bridge a £14 million budget gap for 2023/24, which includes the potential cutting of up to 174 teaching jobs over the next five years and up to three Midlothian Sure Start early learning centres, which would result in redundancies for up to 18 nursery staff.

Mr Hoy spoke to mothers from Penicuik, Mayfield and Dalkeith who said that Midlothian Sure Start has been a crucial resource which has supported them through difficult times.

Midlothian Sure Start is a multi-award winning third sector organisation which has served the communities of Midlothian for over 25 years, operating 6 family learning centres which have supported over a thousand families in the area.

The organisation provides 1:1 parenting lessons, counselling and perinatal services for parents, as well as offering high-quality early learning and childcare services and support for toddlers and Primary School pupils with additional needs.

Between 2021-22, Sure Start provided support to 309 children, 40 male carers and 408 female carers in Midlothian.

45% of families who used the service lived in areas of high deprivation and 20% of children had an Additional Support need.

Mr Hoy commented: “While Midlothian Council are looking to close nurseries, cut teaching jobs and shut other educational services to plug a £14 million budget gap, SNP and Labour Councillors continue to support a £33 million upgrade to the ski centre at Hillend.

“First and foremost, Midlothian Council have a duty to serve the people of Midlothian. That means providing children and young people here with the very best standards of care and educational opportunities to advance in life.

“I wholeheartedly support the petition to retain the six Midlothian Sure Start early learning centres, and I also strongly encourage the SNP administration in Midlothian to reconsider the potential withdrawal of funding from teachers, schools and nurseries in Midlothian while they go ahead with the multi-million-pound upgrade to the ski centre at Hillend which now faces a number of setbacks.

“The Scottish Government must also reassess the £1.2 billion of taxpayer money it intends to use to create a national social care service which has been opposed by third sector charities and its own MSPs.

“That funding should instead be invested back into frontline social care services as well as health and education services, and I have written to the First Minister as a matter of urgency to outline the pressing need for an emergency solution to protect essential education services in Midlothian.”

Cheryl Brown from Midlothian Sure Start said: “The Midlothian Sure Start centres are a lifeline to many families who use them to access a wide range of services. Families tell us that they literally save lives. The closure of any centre will leave young children and families who depend on our services feeling abandoned. It will disrupt early intervention and prevention work leading not only to a lack of savings but poorer outcomes for those who need the services most.”

Craig has called on council chiefs and the ruling SNP council group to look again at the proposed cuts and has appealed to the Scottish Government to give Midlothian Council a fairer funding settlement.

The petition to prevent the possible closures of the early learning centres can be found HERE.

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