Home-Start halt brings heartbreak for Hitchin and Letchworth families

Parents and children who attend the Hitchin Home Start family group at the Westmill community centre

Parents and children who attend the Hitchin Home Start family group at the Westmill community centre are unhappy with the proposed closure - Credit: Archant

Mums and toddlers at a Hitchin community centre were left in tears after being told a much-needed family group for parents will close next month as it struggles to fund itself.

Rosie and Hunter Topps, 18 months attend the Hitchin Home Start family group at the Westmill communi

Rosie and Hunter Topps, 18 months attend the Hitchin Home Start family group at the Westmill community centre - Credit: Archant

The Family Group, part of Home-Start North Herts offers free support, advice, and mothers and toddlers groups for more than 40 families in Hitchin and Letchworth.

But it’s facing an uncertain future after budget cuts has forced the charity to scrap the parents groups at Hitchin’s Westmill Community Centre and the Norton Methodist Church in Letchworth at the end of April.

The Comet was at Westmill when parents were told the news and spoke to shocked and tearful mums.

Mum Rosie Topps said: “I’m shocked and saddened. It’s a vital community group.

“My 18-month-old son Hunter and I travel from the other side of Hitchin to come here.

“A lot of tearful and distraught mums and kids who are supported in many ways here have said they don’t know how they’re going to cope once it closes. My son’s been in tears.”

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Sian Goodchild said: “I feel so sad. My six-month-old daughter Allanah-Rose Houston and I really enjoy coming here. It’s helped so many people. I don’t know what we’ll do once it closes.”

Fellow mum Gemma Smith added: “The Family Group have helped me since the day I gave birth.

“They’ve been brilliant. I’m devastated.”

Father-of-two Alexandru Szeles-Bodrog said: “I’m upset at the news. My two daughters Chantal, four, and Nemaya, two, haven’t stopped crying.”

Hitchin MP Peter Lilley said: “I’ll do all I can in my power to look into this. I know they do good work there.”

Home-Start North Herts chairman and trustee Pat Walker explained the decision, saying: “We’re sorry to everyone in taking this difficult decision.

“The groups cost £12,000 to run and we’re concentrating on our core services, such as home visits to families at risk.”

Hertfordshire County Council’s Richard Roberts who is responsible for children’s services Richard Roberts said: “I am saddened Home Start North Herts have taken the decision to discontinue the two family groups in Hitchin and Letchworth which are not funded by Hertfordshire County Council. Funding from Hertfordshire County Council and the Clinical Commissioning Groups continues at its current level for Home Start in North Hertfordshire and across the county.”

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