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‘Reopen lifeline café,’ say Paradise Park protesters

Supporters say ‘safe haven for mothers’ must be protected from funding cuts

12 May, 2017 — By Jane Clinton

Demonstrators outside the Town Hall last night (Thursday)

TODDLER protesters took to the Town Hall last night (Thursday) in a bid to convince the council to reopen a café that has been a “lifeline” for mothers dealing with depression, domestic violence and bereavement.

Paradise Park Community Café was closed on April 28 after Islington Play Association (IPA), the charity that runs it, was hit by funding cuts.

Slashed local government budgets forced IPA out of Islington West Library, and it is now using the café for office space.

A petition to keep the café open has garnered nearly 1,000 signatures and many users have spoken of how important it has been to them in difficult times.

Supporters say the café is a “unique and special safe haven” for people in the area and offers solace and advice to those with mental health issues and financial problems.

Selma Seyhan, who went there regularly with her son Edin who is now three, was at the protest at the Town Hall on Thursday before a full council meeting.

“When I first had my son, it was such an important place for me,” she said. “Sometimes it can get lonely in the early stages of motherhood and parenthood but there was always a warm welcome at the café and there were other people there in similar circumstances.

“It was a place where lasting friendships were made and the whole community – the rich and poor, the very young and the old and everyone in between – could be together, and that is rare.”

Campaigners have drawn up an alternative business plan to run the café, including funding opportunities for businesses in the area and recruiting volunteers to help run it to keep costs down. But they believe there is no real will to see the café reopen and that IPA “are not really co-operating”.

“IPA says it doesn’t want the café to close but when we offer viable alternatives they do not seem very interested,” said Ms Seyhan.

In a statement IPA said that the café was closing “for May”.

But parents do not believe it will reopen.

Meanwhile parents are also concerned that the childcare and nursery service on the site will be the next to go.

The council denied that Paradise Park or any of the 15 other children’s centres would be closing.

From September some sessions at Paradise Park, including Stay and Play, “may be moved” to the likes of a community centre. But the council insisted that childcare and nursery education would not be affected.

A spokesman added: “During the summer term, there are no planned changes to either the childcare services or nursery.”

However there are fears that the planned “restructuring” of the Paradise Park facility will ultimately provide a reduced, inferior service.

“They say they are reorganising the structure to save money,” said Ms Seyhan. “They say the service will be the same but they are reducing the number of staff so they won’t be able to provide the same service.”

“This is not about money,” she added. “This is about children.”

A consultation on the restructuring proposals to the children’s centres, as well as the admissions policy to nursery classes in schools, ends on May 28.

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