Minor changes to Suffolk’s children centre plans won’t stop the damage to families

Minor changes to Suffolk County Council’s shake-up of children’s services won’t stop the huge damage they will cause to families, UNISON warns today.

Previous redesign documents outlined cuts at 22 of Suffolk’s remaining 38 children’s centres, with 11 down to close completely.

But in Cabinet papers published today, the Council says it will make cuts at 21 centres, with Foley in Newmarket no longer facing cuts to opening hours and Village Rise in Lowestoft spared complete closure but still being converted to a part-time family hub.

If the redesign is approved next week, Suffolk would have just 17 full-time family hubs and 11 part-time hubs, down from 47 full-time children’s centres in 2015.

Staff have expressed overwhelming opposition to the redesign, with four in five (83%) warning they would negatively affect services.

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The Council claims that it can continue to meet its statutory duty to provide children’s services with outreach centres in places earmarked for closures or cut hours, but staff say past experience of this has proved costly and ineffective.

UNISON Eastern regional organiser Winston Dorsett said: “Saving the centre at Village Rise and abandoning the cuts to hours at Foley will be a big relief to families in Lowestoft and Newmarket.

“But these minor changes won’t stop huge damage being done to Suffolk’s children and families.

“The Council is still ploughing on with a major reorganisation of services in the midst of a global pandemic. It has no idea what the long-term implications of Covid-19 will be and how it will affect these centres.

“Hundreds of people have signed petitions or written to their MPs asking senior councillors to pause their plans. They’re now being ignored.

“The Cabinet still has time to step back from the brink and stop this attack on Suffolk families.”

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