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Playgroup Users Left in the Lurch

October 23, 2009


Users of a children’s playgroup are calling on Lewisham Council to re-instate popular all-day play sessions, after they were cut when the Council re-structured the service.

The Forster Park Generations Playgroup, in south Lewisham, used to offer all-day play sessions, where local families and carers could bring their children throughout the day. But following a re-structuring, the opening hours of the playgroup have been cut, and the all-day play sessions have been replaced by a number of shorter sessions, aimed at specific activities or age groups, leaving many parents disgruntled.

Parents and carers are now only able to attend when their child meets the eligibility criteria of the session. For example, a parent with two children, can no longer bring both if one of them is ‘too old’ for the session on offer. This often makes it impossible for them to attend at all.

Lynn Perryman, who used to be a regular at the playgroup said, “Forster Park playgroup used to be a really vibrant community where you could drop in at any point in the day and there’d always be a friendly face for a chat and cup of tea, with different activities for the children to do. Now it is difficult to keep track of which session is available on which day for your child’s age group. During the school holidays I couldn’t access the play group at all as I have an older son – children up to the age of eight used to be allowed in on a Monday and Wednesday but this has now ceased.

Lunchtimes used to be a special time, which allowed the children to eat together and learn valuable social skills as well as preparing them for mealtimes at school. The centre was even presented with a healthy eating award last year. But it’s now closed during lunch, and there are no healthy snacks or drinks, with the exception of water and milk.”

It’s right that the Council looks for ways to attract new parents to the children’s playgroups, but if this means current users feel letdown, the decision should be re-examined. The Council says they consulted widely, but no one I have spoken with said they were consulted. I’d like the Council to meet with all the playgroup users and see if a solution can be reached before these changes are rolled out to other playgroups across the borough.

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