Leith Community base forced to make all staff redundant

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A COMMUNITY centre supporting hundreds of families has cut services amid a deepening funding crisis – sparking fears it could be facing closure.

Dr Bell’s Family Centre in Leith said fresh cuts to their crèche services and staff redundancies were the result of slashed council funding and warned they might be forced to close their doors by April next year.

The under-threat one-stop-shop for families provides counselling, cookery classes, one-to-one family support and a crèche with places for vulnerable children who have extra support needs.

Last year outreach crèche services were cut and sessional workers reduced after the city council slashed its grant by over half from £95,000 over three years to £47,000.

All ten staff, including two centre managers, group workers and café workers, have now been served redundancy notices. Plans are being drawn up that will see the crèche reduced to five sessions a week starting in January.

Centre manager Fiona Clark said: “The council grant used to cover 40 per cent of our costs but under the new agreement it’s only about 18 per cent.

“It was such a difficult decision to make the team redundant. Everyone is just devastated.

“We do generate some income from our café and crèche but as a small local charity we rely on fundraising to meet our annual running costs of £220,000.

“A projected short-term funding gap of £40,000 could potentially lead to this valued community asset closing its doors by April next year.

“Families most in need and facing the most extreme disadvantage will be prioritised under our reduced service from January, however this decision will still impact hundreds of parents and children who need our support.”

Ms Clark insists that an injection of cash could help bring the Centre back from the brink. Plans are under way to launch a petition as well as a fundraising drive.

Ms Clark added: “This is a valued Leith asset that serves our community. Over 200 children use our crèche. Dozens of families come to cookery 
classes and other services like family support and counselling have a massive impact. We want to be able to open full time to help more local families – not to cut services even more.”

Dr Bells Family Centre opened in 2006 as a partnership between the NHS, the city council and local community organisations to deliver help and support to families with young children.

Councillor Cammy Day, children and families leader, said: “We are aware of the funding issues facing Dr Bell’s and are working closely with them to do whatever is possible to help them achieve sustainability.

“The council continues to be Dr Bell’s largest funder with approved annual grant funding of £47k for three years.”