POLITICS
31/01/2019 23:30 GMT | Updated 16/07/2019 13:13 BST

What It's Like To Lose Your Local Nursery

When the Commonwealth Games came to the Scottish city, promises of regeneration were made to locals. But nearly four years later, services are shutting their doors.

The legacy of the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, one of the poorest parts of the UK hardest hit by austerity, was meant to extend for decades. “The investment... will be felt for a generation,” the Scottish minister in charge of the project said at the time.

Parts of the east-end were transformed beyond recognition. Accommodation for hundreds of athletes sprung up alongside the brand-new Dalmarnock Legacy Hub, billed as the centrepiece of efforts to transform one of the most deprived areas of the city.

The new £3.5m community centre – funded by the Scottish government, Glasgow council and lottery funds – gave local people access to youth facilities, adult education services and, most importantly for many parents in the area, a nursery.

 

PA Archive/PA Images
Former Scottish footballer Kenny Dalglish tries out a sofa in the children's nursery after officially opening the Dalmarnock Legacy Hub in Glasgow in 2015

 

But less than three-and-a-half years after it opened, the promises of regeneration have failed to materialise for many locals, who have been doubly hit by shrinking local budgets, and the drying up of investment. 

Last Friday afternoon, they were told that the People’s Development Trust – the charity charged with running the Hub – had gone into administration due to a combination of trading losses and a lack of grant and charity-funded projects being undertaken. 

One of the casualties was the nursery. It closed its doors with immediate effect, suddenly leaving dozens of children without a place to go, parents without childcare, and teachers without a job.  

“All I’ve done since then is cry,” said Carolanne Mccracken, whose daughter had been at the nursery since she was 10 months old. “My little girl starts school this year and she’s not going to graduate with the girls who have known her for three-and-a-half years.”

The news followed a decade of swingeing cuts to public services in Glasgow. According to a study by the think-tank Centre for Cities, it was the city worst hit by austerity in Scotland – ninth in the UK overall – with council budgets falling by more than 23% since 2009. 

While the figure was questioned by the council, who argued it was not representative and did not count education funding, the study painted a bleak picture of the services available to the people of Dalmarnock. 

Now, amid this spectre of cuts and shrinking public services and with the closure of the Hub, the already-poor area has lost some of the key assets left to it by the Commonwealth Games. 

Deborah Walker
Locals put teddy bears outside of the Legacy Hub during a protest on Sunday to represent the number of children who had been left without a nursery place thanks to the closure 

On its own, the closure of a nursery is not national news, but in our series, What It’s Like To Lose, we are exploring how these changes at a local level link up to paint a national portrait of austerity – from the closures of community libraries, or the centralisation of medical services, to the disappearance of affordable leisure facilities and post offices.

During the meeting announcing the nursery closure, parents were given a list of other nursery places available by Glasgow City Council. “But it was all wrong,” Carolanne said. “Most nurseries were full, and more money.”

Faced with the near-impossible task of finding a new nursery by Monday morning, she had to take two days off work to focus on it. “My boss wasn’t very happy,” she said.

She finally found a place but it was “miles away from here and where I work” compared to the Family Legacy nursery, which was just 10 minutes away. Her journey jumped to 45 minutes, and the fees will cost the family £5 more a week.

There is no other childcare locally that can take them on the same days

Mum-of-two Charlene Paterson Hamilton also missed out on a week’s work because of the nursery closure. But despite her best efforts, the only place she could find which could accommodate both her sons could only take them one day per week – half of the hours offered by the Family Legacy.

Hamilton said: “There is no other childcare locally that can take them on the same days, so I don’t have any other option but to struggle with one day for now and juggle work until the summer when we can get additional days.”

Charlene Paterson Hamilton
Charlene Paterson Hamilton struggled to find a nursery which could take both of her sons for two days a week.

But she said she was lucky to find anywhere at all. “If I couldn’t then I would have to resign from my job working for the NHS and try to find a job working evenings.

“That may still be the end result for us I guess – we will need to see how long it takes to settle them both in so they can be in nursery for a full day.”

The closure of the Legacy Hub has also had a huge impact on the people who worked there. All in all, 23 people were made redundant, including those who worked at the nursery.

Chloe Fleming, who was employed by the nursery for three years, called the moment administrators KPMG announced the closure as “awful”.

“We had no notice, nothing,” the 20-year-old said. “It was just a case of ‘the nursery is closed, you don’t have jobs anymore.’ All of us were heartbroken. We burst out crying.”

Most of the staff are still looking for work. “We’ve signed on at the job centre – we’re trying to find jobs at other nurseries or agency work. Some of us are just so heartbroken we don’t even know what do.”

For fellow nursery worker Paula Gray, “the thought of not even being able to say ‘bye’ to the children we had been so close to for years, some of them since they were babies, made me feel absolutely devastated”.

“It was such a family-like environment in the nursery and it almost felt as if our family had been taken away.”

Ashleigh Rotchford, another of the Family Legacy mums, believes the closure is a sign of bigger problems in Glasgow.

“It’s shocking – the community has been abandoned. After all the promises that were made before the Commonwealth Games came to Glasgow, it has brought us nothing apart from a lot of buildings sitting empty. What is next?”

Ashleigh Rotchford
Mum Ashleigh Rotchford with her family 

But the Dalmarnock community is not willing to go down without a fight. While more than 1,500 people have signed a petition calling on Glasgow City Council to take over the Legacy Hub, dozens of families attended a protest outside the community centre on Sunday afternoon.

Among them was Deborah Walker, a youth engagement coordinator who was made redundant in the closure. She ran a weekly youth group at the Hub.

“I managed to see a lot of my young people at the protest on Sunday and they are up for a fight, for the youth group to stay,” she said. “Myself and volunteer youth workers are going to carry on and try and find a temporary premises for the youth group until we know what is going on with the Hub. We will keep the momentum going.”

A spokesperson for Glasgow City Council said it was looking at “a range of options to make the Legacy Hub a viable operation in the future”.

“But at this stage we have to respect that there is a clear legal process for KPMG, as the administrators, to go through.

“It is encouraging that the administrators have stated an intention to engage with key stakeholders, particularly the local community, to determine the future of the Legacy Hub, and the council will wish to be part of any such engagement,” they added.  

Lauren Gosling-Powell for HuffPost UK

In a new series, HuffPost UK is examining how shrinking local budgets are affecting people’s daily lives. These are stories of what it’s like to lose, in a society that is quietly changing. If you have a story you’d like to tell, email basia.cummings@huffpost.com