Unhappy Times At Local Nursery

One hundred children evicted from Ravenscourt Park nursery

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One Hundred children have been evicted and remain locked out of Happy Times Nursery where, until Tuesday of this week, the nursery had occupied premises in Ravenscourt Park Hospital for over eight years.

Although 21 days’ late payment of rent has been claimed by Hammersmith Hospitals NHS Trust as their reason for terminating Happy Times’ lease, the London based nursery group has responded that their track record on rent payment is good and that they have no arrears with the Trust assuming that the Trust chooses to accept the payment for the last quarter’s rent which was sent earlier this week.

"We are aware from media coverage that Ravenscourt Park Hospital is in financial difficulties and has already had to make significant ward closures after previously invested in excess of £14m", said Happy Times Chief Executive, Adam Shaw. "We have also been made aware of discussion with private sector firms to take over the hospital and turn it into an Independent Sector Treatment Centre. We can only surmise that their termination of our lease is to secure vacant possession and pave the way for such a plan. We doubt very much that they’re looking to expand into the space we occupy given their reported debts of £12m and bed-occupancy rates of less than 50%."

If privatisation is the plan for Ravenscourt Park Hospital then Happy Times believes that early and open communication from Hammersmith Hospitals NHS Trust would have been the best approach for everyone involved and would have enabled Happy Times to relocate its nursery in a planned manner with plenty of parent consultation and community involvement.

"As things stand today", continues Adam, "we have been evicted from our nursery with no advance notice whatsoever. The Trust has locked the doors and instructed a number of burly security officers to bar children, parents and Happy Times employees from the area. We’re dealing with babies and toddlers under five years old here and these heavy-handed tactics are appalling and disguising from anybody - particularly from the NHS which is supposed to be a caring organisation and part of the community."

Happy Times has instructed its lawyers to seek an immediate resolution to the dispute with Hammersmith Hospitals NHS Trust and to allow the nursery to reopen; as Adam Shaw confirms. "Our priority is to get life back to normal as quickly as possible for our children, parents and our employees who are not only inconvenienced by the situation but who, in many cases, are angry and distressed as a result of the unfair and uncaring actions of this NHS Trust."

This news comes in the same week The Londoner (a free newspaper delivered on behalf of the Mayor's office) published an article claiming that 3,000 extra subsidised childcare places have now been made available of which 30 are in Hammersmith & Fulham, 296 are in Ealing and 49 in Hounslow as part of the Childcare Affordability Programme.  To find out more about this programme see www.lda.gov.uk/childcare or contact the children's services department of your local council.

Hammersmith and Fulham Council are offering help to parents who may have been affected by the closure. A spokesperson for the Council said, "We are aware of the sudden closure of Happy Times Nursery at Ravenscourt Park Hospital and will do all we can to help local parents to find alternative places for their children. Our early years service has details of local vacant childcare places. Parents can contact Pat Bunche, head of early years, on 020 8753 3772 or the children's information service on 020 8735 5868."

April 22, 2006