Job losses at Kenilworth children's centre 'a betrayal'

St John's Children's Centre
St John's Children's Centre

Members of the Kenilworth Children’s Centres Advisory Board say they have been ‘betrayed’ after they were told many staff would be made redundant at the town’s only remaining children’s centre.

St John’s Children’s Centre will lose all of its professional staff, apart from two family support workers, in July as part of changes by Warwickshire County Council and Barnardo’s, who jointly run the centre.

Among the staff being made redundant is the centre’s manager Caroline Condillac.

And the two family support workers will not be based at St John’s, but will instead be part of team covering the remaining centres in Warwick district.

It is not yet clear exactly how services will be affected.

During a Kenilworth Town Council meeting on Thursday June 21, Cllr Kate Dickson (Lib Dem, Abbey), who sits on the Kenilworth Children’s Centres Advisory Board, paid tribute to Caroline, saying she ‘poured her heart and soul’ into the centre.

She added: “We were on the understanding that Kenilworth was a special place. That has not been taken into account.”

Cllr Dickson was referring to the county council’s promise of a ‘transition period’ from April 2018 to March 2019 for St John’s after it announced 25 of the county’s 39 centres would close.

This was supposed to give the council time to work out a solution for how services could be kept at St John’s.

The county council decided St John’s needed a transition period after Kenilworth parents showed huge support for the centre at a consultation event in August 2017.

The advisory board thought no major changes would happen until the end of the period. But the county council met the board on Thursday June 14 to tell them about the redundancies.

In a later interview, Cllr Dickson said: “We feel quite betrayed. It’s bad news for the families of Kenilworth, and I think we’re going to have to rely on the community of Kenilworth to support the centre.”

And Jean Lockley, chair of the advisory board, said: “We didn’t have any formal communication from the county council or Barnardo’s about any of this until June.

“It’s the lack of communication which has been the most difficult thing. If we knew we were going to be in this position last November we could have dealt with it.”

A spokesman for Warwickshire County Council said it was ‘committed to providing the best service possible’.

They added: “It is not appropriate for the county council to comment on the staffing situation as staff are employed by Barnardo’s and any changes are yet to happen.”

And a Barnardo’s spokesman said: “Barnardo’s recently completed an open consultation and selection process to align staff to the new structure. Sadly there have been some redundancies but we have worked hard to support those affected during what we appreciate is a very difficult time.

"The new teams will maintain the charity’s focus on giving local children the best possible start in life, and we will continue to keep families informed of any changes as more information becomes available."