Anger at planned children's centre cuts in Suffolk

10 July 2019, 09:06 | Updated: 10 July 2019, 09:08

Suffolk County Council

Labour councillors in Suffolk say they're furious at the proposed closure of some of the county's remaining full-time children's centres.

They say it would hurt young families.

The County Council say the changes that are being put forward by the Policy Development Panel (PDP) would extend access to council services to a wider range of young people and families, with some of those services being delivered to families directly - in their own homes.

But Cllr Jack Abbott, Labour spokesperson for Children's Services and Education at Suffolk County Council, said: "I am not surprised, but I am absolutely furious.

"These children’s centres are a vital lifeline for families, yet the Conservatives at Suffolk County Council are happy to close the remaining number of full-time centres by more than half.

"They should be ashamed that, once again, they are proposing a policy that will hurt young families and negatively impact the outcomes of children.

"We warned this would happen just a few months ago, but Tories said that any stories of impending children’s centre cuts were ‘unfounded’ - we all now know the truth.

"They have utterly eroded any remaining trust in their Party and I hope that the backbench Conservatives who are shifting uncomfortably in their seats will now make a stand, put their residents before their Party and say; ‘enough is enough’."

The recommended changes will be debated by the County Council’s Cabinet on Tuesday 16 July.

If approved, a full public consultation will be launched later this year.

The proposed 'Family Hub model' would see:

- family hubs - larger centres located in the more deprived locations across Suffolk - including a range of services
- part-time sites - smaller centres in or near to deprived areas in Suffolk, providing a number of universal services
- outreach approach - the delivery of universal and targeted services directly to families or through particular community points of contact (e.g. antenatal group, infant massage, domestic violence support, neonatal mental health etc)

The recommendations are for 16 full-time Family Hubs and nine part-time Family Hubs, enabling the delivery of Outreach services for families from at least 55 venues, in 43 different towns and villages across Suffolk.

At present Children’s Centre services operate out of a network of 38 fixed buildings delivering Outreach activities through 50 health clinics and groups in a range of buildings.

The closure of two existing buildings is being proposed - Caterpillar, Woodbridge, and Chatterbox, North Ipswich.

Cllr Gordon Jones, Suffolk County Council’s Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, Education and Skills said: "I want to thank members of the Panel for their support, commitment and research surrounding this important piece of work that seeks to improve the way in which the council supports some of the most vulnerable members of our community.

"I can see that the proposal they are putting forward is based on an extensive period of research and evidence gathering.

"What I want to see us do now is move to a period of full public consultation to speak again to families currently using these services to see what they think about this proposal and hear from those people who may use such services in the future to understand their views and what the service can do for them.

"We also need to ensure that staff and wider communities are in strong a position to understand exactly what the PDP’s proposal involves and how this approach may work in practice."