A children’s toy library is threatened after Brighton and Hove City Council proposed cutting £22,000 of annual funding.
The Early Childhood Project, a charity based at the Tarner Centre, in Ivory Place, Brighton, relies on the money to run the toy library and a free stay-and-play for preschool children and their families.
In an attempt to save the toy library, the project co-ordinator and manager Clair Barnard is calling on the council to keep £9,890 of the annual grant.
The rest of the annual grant covers the cost of running drop-in play sessions at children’s centres and libraries across the city.
Since the coronavirus pandemic, the project has focused on providing children’s online groups, art and craft packs and family support through a weekly newsletter.
Supporters plan to protest outside Hove Town Hall at 3.30pm on Thursday 2 February, before the next full council meeting, before asking questions at the meeting itself. The project has also urged its supporters to email councillors beforehand.
Ms Barnard said: “The cut to the toy library grant, which pays worker wages and volunteer expenses, is difficult to replace in time for (Saturday) 1 April.
“We have worked hard for 35 years and have fundraised all that time to add value to the toy library service by offering equalities and play training, making art and craft packs for children throughout lockdown, running a YouTube channel throughout the pandemic and giving bereavement support, as well as meeting individual family’s needs as they arise.
“The receipt of a grant from the city council is an endorsement of our work and our efficacy which gives smaller charities which distribute funds the confidence to award grants to small organisations such as us.
“So, investing in the toy library gives us the capacity to continue to provide a much-needed city resource for families and their young children, gives work and valuable work experience to local people and brings additional income into the city.
“To lose the grant will have a knock-on effect wider than just taking £10,000 from the toy library.”
The charity has an annual turnover of £42,000 and has focused on the toy library grant, as Ms Barnard said that it is the most needed.
The toy library currently has 266 members. The Early Childhood Project also runs the city’s only free dads and male carers stay and play, which currently has 30 users.
Toy library user Natasha Gawlinski said: “For me, it was a lifeline of support, particularly on days when I felt low and alone as a parent.
“I look back at those early days of parenting as really mixed emotionally as it’s really hard for new parents but, without places like the toy library, it would have been even harder.”
The toy library was one of four external services for early years listed for funding cuts totalling £36,000 in the draft budget which was published last month.
Other proposed cuts include £11,000 to the Brighton Unemployed Centre, £2,000 to Brighton Oasis creche support and £1,000 to Amaze.
Cuts are planned which will affect several non-statutory council services to tackle a £19 million shortfall next year and a potential budget gap of £54 million over the next four years.
The next meeting of the full council is due to start at 4.30pm on Thursday 2 February at Hove Town Hall. The meeting is scheduled to be webcast on the council’s website.