Suffolk County Council hasn’t listened to children’s centre staff

Despite months of campaigning by Suffolk children’s centre staff, the county council’s cabinet today voted through its closure programme.

It has approved cuts to services at 21 of the remaining 38 centres. Eleven would have their hours cut while the other 10 will shut completely.

A service redesign was first suggested last year but shelved because of the general election and then because of the coronavirus pandemic. Early plans had cuts planned at 22 centres, but consistent pressure from staff and families saved one centre.

UNISON Suffolk County branch secretary Neil Bland said: “This is a sad day for many Suffolk families, who will now face a future without their local children’s centre and the vital support it provides.

“Senior councillors clai​ms they’ve listened to staff during this consultation, but they’ve kept their fingers in their ears the whole time. Mary Eva​ns mentioned UNISON’s survey of children’s centre staff during today’s cabinet as an example of her listening exercises. She didn’t mention that our survey showed staff were overwhelmingly against the changes.

“We still have no answers on a whole range of issues about how this redesign will actually work.

“We asked about how hard-up third-sector providers would find the cash to make centres fit for their purpose. The​ council’s only answer is a blind faith that grants are available.​

“Despite today’s vote, Suffolk County Council still has the chance to step back from the brink and save these centres.”