Suffolk

Suffolk County Council: Fears more children's centres could close

Victoria Proctor
Image caption Parent Victoria Proctor criticised plans which could see the closure of centres.

Up to half of Suffolk's children's centres could close as part of a wide-ranging review of public services, the BBC has learnt.

Suffolk County Council is reviewing the future of its 38 remaining centres.

Campaigner Anne Humphrys said the facilities, which offer advice, support and play sessions for pre-schoolers, provided a "lifeline" for parents.

The Tory-run council said its review aimed to provide "co-ordinated support for children in need".

Ms Humphrys, co-chair of Suffolk Parent Carer Network, said: "Families tell us that children's centres are often a very real lifeline to them.

Image caption Children's Centres offer health checks, advice and play sessions

"Parents have told us how they have stopped them being isolated, enabled them to access the right services and bond with their children."

Parent Victoria Proctor criticised plans which could see closures.

"It's quite disgusting children's centres are being targeted," she said.

"If you can't support families, who can you support?"

'True family model'

Children's Centres, originally called Sure Start Centres, were built by the last Labour government for vulnerable families, but were then opened up to all parents.

Suffolk originally had 47, but nine were closed during a round of cuts under the Conservatives in 2015.

One of the options being considered is to close up to half of the centres, while another is to keep them all open.

"We see this as an opportunity to develop a new family service offer and ensure any potential model of delivery provides co-ordinated support for children in need and their families," a council spokesman said.

"Therefore, a review of the current children's centre offer is required.

"This is to ensure we can meet the aspirations of a true family model whilst maintaining a relevant presence and offer to meet the needs of vulnerable families."

In January, Norfolk County Council rubber-stamped the closure of 38 of its 53 centres as part of a £5m package of cuts.

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