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Labour’s shadow cabinet backs calls for rethink on Suffolk children’s centres

PUBLISHED: 09:01 07 July 2020

Tulip Siddiq, shadow children's minister. Picture: ARCHANT

Tulip Siddiq, shadow children's minister. Picture: ARCHANT

Archant

Plans to close children’s centres in Suffolk have come under fire from the Labour shadow cabinet after the details were published yesterday.

Tulip Siddiq, Shadow Children and Early Years Minister, said: “A decade of Tory cuts have had a devastating impact on Suffolk, where nine children’s centres have already been forced to close. Losing any more children’s centres in Suffolk would be catastrophic for the children and the families who rely on them for support.

“This is an incredibly tough time for many children, so it is imperative that we both continue to fund existing services and look at how we can provide better support. But Tory cuts to council budgets have made it so much more difficult for families to get the support they need, and they are being underfunded in this crisis.

“Further cutbacks to children’s centres will compound the huge problems that families are facing at the moment. Labour support those who are fighting to save these vital services.”

Conservative-run Suffolk County Council is set to reduce services at more than half of the county’s children’s centres in July. A meeting of its cabinet next week is being recommended to reduce the hours at 11, while a further 11 will close entirely. Just 16 children’s centres would remain open full-time compared with the 47 that were operating at the start of 2015.

The council says the proposals will improve services by providing services for children from birth to the age of 19. It says the proposals will create:

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17 full-time Family Hubs.

11 part-time Family Hubs.

Re-purposing eight current sites into nursery places or school provision.

Closing two buildings that cannot be re-purposed as a Family Hub.

Improving the existing service offer through Suffolk Libraries

Cabinet member for children’s service education and skills, Councillor Mary Evans, said: “This proposal is focused on strengthening our current offer for Suffolk’s most vulnerable families and improving services for young people aged 0-19 right across the county.

“There has been no requirement to save money as part of this review. Buildings don’t make this kind of service a success, people do. This proposal puts more money into providing the staff and services that families and young people really need. I am pleased to say that by reducing spending on buildings we will be switching money to employing more staff to work with vulnerable families.”

UNISON released a staff survey which showed that 83% thought the redesign would negatively affect services, while the same number believed it will hit the county’s more vulnerable residents hardest. More than four-fifths (81%) agreed with the view that the changes would be “devastating for the staff and children who use the services.”


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