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Felixstowe: Fears loss of children’s centre ‘would hit deprived families’

PUBLISHED: 09:00 08 August 2014

Doreen Savage

Doreen Savage

Archant

Community leaders have attacked proposals to close a children’s centre serving families living in one of the most deprived areas in Suffolk.

County councillors are considering the future of the Sea Breeze centre in Langer Road, Felixstowe, one of nine which could shut as part of cost-cutting plans.

The centre is situated in south Felixstowe, regularly identified as one of the 10 most deprived wards in the county, and town councillors fear some people will not be able to afford or to reach the resort’s other centre, The Oaks, in Grange Road.

The council is writing to the county council in the strongest terms, urging it to abandon its plans.

Former mayor Doreen Savage said: “I am concerned that if the Sea Breeze centre closes a lot of people will not have the wherewithal to get up to The Oaks – it might only be 0.9miles but that can be a long way when you have got children.

“I am really concerned that people who might really need help might be disadvantaged by this closure. Sea Breeze provides a real service in an area where it is vitally needed.”

Councillor Mike Stokell said by road from Adastral Close – the estate near the port where many users of Sea Breeze live – was a 5.6-mile road walk there and back.

He said: “Those without road transport are being asked to take a bit of a Dickensian hike.”

Councillor Mike Sharman said: “It’s a huge distance when you are walking with a tripper and children, or by bus you have to take one to the town centre and then another up to The Oaks, and the same back again. The county council doesn’t appeared to have looked at these problems at all.”

Councillor Margaret Morris said the benefits of the work done by children’s centres was often not seen for 10 or even 20 years in the lives of the families they were helping.

Sea Breeze also ran a course to help people affected by domestic violence.

The county council is proposing to close centres at Hadleigh, Thurston, Haverhill, Reydon and Southwold, Lowestoft, Glemsford, and two in Ipswich, to save £2.9million from running its children’s centres by 2017 – but insists services are not being cut.

Gordon Jones, Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for children’s services, said: “Children’s centre staff can spend a disproportionate amount of time managing buildings, so for some this would release time that could be better spent with children and families.

“I am absolutely clear that none of the services currently provided by children’s centres will be lost if these proposed changes go ahead.

“Children’s centres provide much-needed support to families and we will do everything we can to ensure those services continue to make a difference to people’s lives.”

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