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Parents outrage at proposals to close five children’s centres in the Great Yarmouth borough

PUBLISHED: 12:02 18 September 2018 | UPDATED: 12:52 18 September 2018

Priory children's centre is one of five centres scheduled to close in the Great Yarmouth borough as part of Norfolk County Council's proposal. Picture: Joseph Norton

Priory children's centre is one of five centres scheduled to close in the Great Yarmouth borough as part of Norfolk County Council's proposal. Picture: Joseph Norton

Archant

Parents in Great Yarmouth have reacted angrily to Norfolk County Council’s proposals to close five children’s centres in the borough.

If proposals were to go ahead, Caister children’s centre, Priory children’s centre, Greenacre children’s centre, Gorleston and Hopton children’s centre and Village Green children’s centre will all close.

Parents say that will cause disruption for hundreds of parents and youngsters.

Seagulls children’s centre in Gorleston is the only centre proposed to remain open. Acle Marshes children’s centre is also under threat.

Melissa Murray, who takes her three children to Priory children’s centre, said: “I have been bringing my children here for five years because I don’t like any of the other centres in the area.

“They have been brilliant with all of my kids and it would have a massive impact on me if it closes.”

Courtney Humphreys, who takes her twins to the centre, said: “I have been bringing them here since April as this centre was recommended to me by my friends. The support they provide such a speech therapy is brilliant.

“It would cause a lot of disruption for us if it closed.”

Another parent who uses the centre for his child and did not want to be named, said: “If it closes it would cause massive upset for my little one. The staff have been great and closing it would not be good at all.”

A consultation which is ongoing has revealed plans to close 46 of Norfolk’s 53 children’s centres.

This follows a decision made by Norfolk County Council in February to halve the budget of children’s centres from £10m to £5m.

The contracts for the 12 current providers of the services come to an end next year and the council say this is the time for change.

Mike Smith-Clare, Labour’s spokesman for children’s services, and councillor for the Great Yarmouth Nelson, Southtown and Cobholm division, said: “It is a huge concern for many of the vulnerable people who use these centres for whom they are not merely a service but a lifeline.

“It’s a money saving proposal. It represents a reduction in total funding which will mean a possible reduction in services.”

The council says schools, village halls, libraries and other buildings would be used to provide the services people currently get at children’s centres, along with visits to people’s homes and better online advice.

Penny Carpenter, chairman of the children’s services committee stressed the move is about getting the right help to children and families as early as possible.

She said: “By spending our money on frontline services, rather than buildings, we’ll be able to provide more focused one-to-one and group support, with a more consistent service across the country.

“About a quarter of those families who live in areas of greatest need are not accessing children’s centres services at the moment and we want to develop a service that gives them the support and help they need for their children.”

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