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Job training hit as creche closes in funding crisis; SURE START SCHEMES IN JEOPARDY Now parents say they have nowhere to go.

Byline: By JANE WOODHEAD

A LIFELINE for young parents has been axed amid a major funding crisis, the ECHO can reveal today.

Liverpool mothers wanting to gain new qualifications and return to work after the birth of children have been told there is not enough money to continue their local Sure Start programme.

The government initiative is aimed at providing training for new parents at a reduced cost, together with creche facilities.

But the funding has now been cut at the Sure Start scheme at the Millennium Centre in Belle Vale, leaving parents with nowhere to go.

Sure Start says a review into the service is now under way.

Linda Whitlow from Woolton has two children, James, five, and Sean two.

She has been out of work since the birth of her first son and is now desperate to retrain and gain new qualifications.

Mrs Whitlow has studied various computer courses at the Millennium Centre.

But she is now being forced to give it up because of the lack of funding.

She said: "I arrived at the centre on Monday and discovered there was no creche. I had not received any warning. Last week when I attended I ended up having my son on my knee for all of the lessons which is just totally inappropriate.

"I cannot afford to pay for a private nursery so I guess I will have to leave my studies. This is all totally against what the government is trying to achieve in getting more mothers back to work."

Sure Start confirmed today that funding has been "suspended."

A spokesperson for the Netherley Valley Sure Start Partnership Board said: "Services from the Sure Start Local Programme have been suspended while we undertake a review of the programme's policies and management procedures.

"I cannot comment in more detail at this stage."

Penny Taylor, 27, from Halewood, is a single mother.

She has a one-year-old daughter, Mollie-Jayne, and wants to get further qualifications so she can secure a good job.

She said: "I want to better myself so I decided to study computers and Spanish.

"I received a phone call completely out of the blue last week to say the creche would be closing because of a lack of funding.

"This creche was perfect. The children were just downstairs from their parents and all the staff knew them and loved them."

Some of the mothers are now trying to keep the group running themselves.

The future of the Sure Start centre in Wavertree also hangs in the balance while a judicial review into the project, a joint initiative between the council and NHS, takes place.

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UPSET: Penny Taylor and Linda Whitlow with their children Mollie-Jayne and Sean Picture: TRACEY O'NEILL
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Feb 15, 2006
Words:455
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