U-turn on East Preston children’s centre closure

An East Preston children’s centre that was earmarked for closure will now stay open following a passionate campaign by parents and its owners.

Wednesday, 24th March 2021, 12:10 pm
Updated Wednesday, 24th March 2021, 1:00 pm

Last week, Rascals Childcare in Lashmar Road announced it would be closing its doors after nearly 16 years of childcare – leaving parents devastated.

Owners Tim and Emma Jackson said they had no choice but to shut the centre due to huge losses as a result of the pandemic.

The couple, who have four children, said they were ‘just devastated’, adding: “It is our world. We absolutely love our jobs and providing our service to the community.”

Tim Jackson (front) and Emma with parents and children when the couple announced the closure last week
Tim Jackson (front) and Emma with parents and children when the couple announced the closure last week

But following discussions with West Sussex County Council over the past week and a campaign launched by parents, the couple announced on Monday (March 22), that the county council had agreed to defer their rent payments for a year.

“This is a long-term solution and will enable us to carry on,” Tim said.

“Myself and Emma are delighted with this positive outcome – but we wish this whole matter could’ve been dealt with much quicker. This would have saved a lot of stress for our parents and carers.”

News of the closure shocked the community and parents quickly rallied to help Tim and Emma. Many sent emails to the county council urging them to step in and help and a gofundme page was set up, raising more than £700. District councillors also showed their support.

Rascals Childcare in East Preston. Picture contributed

Tim said: “We had the full backing of parents and carers and the messages of support were overwhelming.”

Emma added: “We are overwhelmed by the love and support from everybody.”

The couple’s son, Thomas, also set up a change.org petition calling on the county council to ‘save this small local business, which has been a massive part of the local community’. It was signed by 696 people.

Emma set up Rascals, an afterschool club, in 2005, with Tim leaving his firefighter job later that year to support her.

Up until the pandemic, it was a huge success with the couple securing 250 children on their books.

Last week, they told how the business suffered a staggering £45,000 loss from March 23, to July 19, last year.

Tim said he and Emma had used all of their personal savings and were now in debt.

“It is soul-destroying – we have never been in debt,” he said at the time, adding: “We were going to go to New York for our 25th wedding anniversary but that won’t be happening now.”

The couple said they had gone to the county council numerous times but received no help.

Parents have since expressed their delight at the u-turn.

One said: “Well done all. People power. Happy owners, happy staff, happy parents and very happy children.”

Another said: “Brilliant news, lovely to see the power of the community getting together to support Rascals and their fabulous team. Well done everyone.”