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Wednesday, 01 October 2014

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Carlisle's Sands Centre axes its creche

Three workers will lose their jobs at The Sands Centre in Carlisle when a creche and other regular toddler activities are axed at the end of the month.

Andy King photo
Andy King

The boss of Carlisle Leisure Ltd, which operates the centre, says the creche is no longer financially viable due to dwindling numbers, despite a review over the last 18 months.

One mother has hit out at the decision and argues that ideas put forward have not been acted up on and that parents would have done more had they been told services were at risk.

Carlisle Leisure, which runs local leisure services on behalf of the city council, has confirmed that the Sands creche and any other activities its creche supervisor leads will cease on July 31. They include playpatch sessions and parent and toddler/baby sessions.

A statement says: “We’ve been talking to the staff for the last 18 months about how we can improve usage. Numbers have dwindled to such a degree that despite promotional drives and initiatives the service is no longer financially viable.”

Staff affected are part-time workers. Alternatives were explored with them, the company states, but they have been made redundant.

Carlisle Leisure says: “We are not asking the staff to work their notice periods as we felt it would be the best course of action for staff who are clearly disappointed.”

Refunds are available for those parents whose memberships are affected by the decision. Sands Centre bosses say they will continue to run activities for the under-fives, such as toddler treats and bouncy fun sessions.

Families will be asked at the next toddler treats event later this month what activities they would like to see provided.

Carlisle Leisure Limited’s chief executive Andy King said: “We have agonised over this decision for a long time and appreciate that some loyal customers will be very disappointed but the usage is now so low that it is just not viable to continue.”

Beverley Branch, whose two-year-old son James goes to the creche, says a number of mothers are angry at the decision.

“We just all got handed a letter on Monday saying it would stop on July 31 and that it is due to poor usage but I can’t believe that,” she said. “Mums use it to go to fitness classes and it was the only place in town offering that.

“Shoppers could use it too and it runs all year round, unlike many others. It wasn’t just the creche on a morning, but other sessions the staff would run in the afternoons. It has given mothers a bit important ‘me time’ while letting their children develop and socialise with other youngsters. I know my son has benefited so much from it.”

She added: “If they had given it a chance and if they’d promoted their services more I’m sure they wouldn’t be in this situation.”

Have your say

I have been visiting the Sands Centre for the past 4 years with my 2 sons. They have absolutely loved playing at the Parent and toddler group on Friday afternoons and they have been expertly cared for 1 morning a week in the creche while I excercised. I was very upset to hear that it is all closing this week. The management claim that they have advertised but certainly in the 4 years I have been going, there has only been 1 attempt at advertising and that was by Judith herself and she was given very little help and support by her bosses.
The cost of using the creche and toddler groups on a yearly membership was fantastic. It was about 130 pounds for the year and this included swimming too. It was a bargain for such excellent care. I am sure there are plenty of parents around the Carlisle area that would have loved to know about it.
I wish Judith and the 2 Carols the best of luck in finding new work. Any nursery or childcare facility would be very lucky to have you.

Posted by Lindsey on 30 July 2014 at 20:27

I cannot comprehend this decision to close the creche. What company in their right mind that had the monopoly in the city with the only gym to provide a creche on site so parents could exercise/shop whilst there children were extremely well looked after and nourished with learning new skills etc. Perhaps the council should take back services that are provided to the community as children should have the opportunity to socialise and develop no matter what age they are. It is clearly the intention of Carlisle leisure to focus on the big money incomes from shows and entertainment which goes against the non profit charitable trust status that they have. I for one valued attending every parent and child group that Judith ran because it was more educational and not just a group of parents sitting drinking coffee whilst children run riot like most places in town. Not one member of the management team have shown their face to parents after announcing the closure which sums up a bad customer service experience also to state that only 3 children were using the service is a blatant lie. I will be interested to see what will happen at the toddlers treats out of curiosity only as I really cannot see that parents will be asked what they want from the sands centre as we wouldn't be in the position now of it being closed.

Posted by Beverley on 30 July 2014 at 19:42

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