ANGRY parents are calling for a u-turn after Essex County Council (ECC) cut a popular weekly group for working parents with young children to monthly sessions.
The ‘Daddy Cool’ sessions also known as Nursery Rhymes sessions can be attended by up to 30 families at a time. The story and rhyme time sessions used to take place once a week at Brentwood Library.
After hearing about the cuts local parents contacted Brentwood South ward Cllr Mike Le-Surf for support.
The parents were told via email from ECC that the weekly group will not be reinstated and are now planning a campaign to force a council u-turn. The monthly sessions will begin on Saturday, 8 September.
Parent and campaign organiser Eva Rodriguez said: “My husband Uriel and I started this campaign together with other mums and dads who attend the Saturday Nursery Rhyme Sessions as being full-time working parents does not leave us many opportunities to enjoy young family activities very often.
“I have been taking my daughter Paloma, now 21-months-old, to these sessions since she was a month old. At first, as I was on maternity leave, we were going to all sessions including the week day ones and it was fantastic to see that even at her young age she was enjoying it. After a few months, things changed as I had to return to work and only the Saturday sessions were viable for us. I was devastated when I found out that the sessions were cutting down drastically and furthermore, when knowing that other local libraries were doing the same or removing them all together.
“As a working parent I feel discriminated that our children will only have the opportunity to enjoy this activity once a month. The regular attendance to these sessions is crucial as repetition is the key to be able to enjoy the benefits of the Nursery Rhymes fully. Actually, Nursery Rhymes is not just about fun and spending time with our children. They help babies and toddlers to achieve a great variety of skills such as coordination, motor and language skills as they gain confidence when starting to speak and acting socially among other children and adults. Helping children to remember the words and exercise their auditory memory skills and how to read and spell a word when the time comes.
“Being in a library setting is crucial as they are introduced to literature as recreation which can translate into a love of reading as the child grows.”
Brentwood South Cllr Mike Le-Surf (pictured centre, with campaigning parents) added: “I received so many calls from local residents about the cuts to the Saturday morning group that I felt we had to act to try and save it. Local working families feel very strongly about it due to the networking and support opportunities it gives them and their children.
“This Saturday morning group is vital for hard working families. Tory cuts to services, especially around libraries are a completely false economy. They break down the structures of our local community and make it harder for people to support each other locally.
“We had success when Labour campaigned against the cuts to the countryside volunteers service and we hope the council will u-turn on this one as well.”
Essex County Council said in a statement: “We regret the need to change the frequency of the Daddy Cool sessions which are enjoyed by families on a regular basis, however Essex Libraries are under pressure to reduce their spending which has necessitated a reduction in the number of events and activities that staff can realistically deliver. Proactive work completed by Essex Libraries’ staff means that, in contrast to many other parts of the country, no library in Essex is being closed.
“A variety of measures have been implemented to ensure the service can remain in budget whilst retaining the flexibility and capacity to meet current and future commitments and challenges. Last year these measures included a staffing review, a review of service hours, a review of the mobile fleet and a reduction in the stock fund. Further measures are being taken this year to free staff time to deliver our core service which has meant that libraries have to keep within a framework of agreed number of events that add value to the regular library offer.
“Unfortunately, we will not be in a position to increase the number of Daddy Cool sessions for the foreseeable future. Libraries are offering volunteers opportunities to get involved with baby and toddler times and Daddy Cool sessions, to share their enjoyment of books and rhymes, and support experienced staff to deliver these sessions. If anyone would like more information about volunteering opportunities in Essex Libraries, then this can be found at www.essex.gov.uk/Libraries-Archives/ libraries/Volunteering-Libraries/Pages/Default.aspx.”