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EDP opinion: Crucial that people have say over future of Norfolk’s children’s centres

PUBLISHED: 06:30 18 September 2018 | UPDATED: 06:50 18 September 2018

Children's centres could be closed. 
PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

Children's centres could be closed. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

© ARCHANT NORFOLK 2009

It was at the start of the year when we first reported how the future of Norfolk’s children’s centres was looking uncertain.

Norfolk County Council agreed that it would reduce the budget which it spends commissioning those services from £10m to £5m.

Clearly, that was going to have a significant impact on a service which is used by about 23,000 families a year.

There were suggestions that the services could be provided in libraries or village halls, but, exactly what it would mean had been unclear, up until now.

It turns out that, what it could mean, is that 46 out of the 53 children’s centres in Norfolk could close. Just seven of them would remain open.

The county council says the services do not have to be about the buildings - that services can be provided in places like libraries, schools, village halls and in people’s homes.

They say changes will enable them to reach more people and to make sure those in the most need get access to services.

That might well prove to be the case, but for the people who use the existing children’s centres, the initial reaction is likely to be one of disappointment.

People go there to speak to experts in what can be tricky times in the first few months and years after welcoming a new child.

And people also get to speak to other parents, which can be invaluable.

If this proposal does go ahead, it will be interesting to see the figures in a year or two, to see just how many people are getting services, compared to now.

Consultation over these proposals is open. It is absolutely essential that people, both those who use the services and those who do not, have their say.

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