Jeremy Corbyn joining battle to save Norfolk's children's centres
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Jeremy Corbyn will join the fight to protect Norfolk's children's centres during a visit to the county this weekend.
The Labour leader will be visiting one of the 46 children’s centres earmarked for closure as part of proposals by Norfolk County Council to restructure the service.
A consultation is on-going into the plans which would see all but a handful of Norfolk’s 53 publicly run children’s centres close.
On his visit to North City Children’s Centre in Angel Road, Norwich on Saturday, Mr Corbyn will highlight figures showing that 23,000 children under the age of five have used Norfolk’s children’s centres in the past year.
He is expected to warn of a “national emergency” facing children’s services, as well as cautioning of the “long-term damage” which cuts to funding could cause to children’s lives.
Mr Corbyn said: “Cutting the services that protect and support children and young people is a tragic false economy that will blight the lives of millions of children and young people.
“These cuts risk more children ending up in care, excluded from school or falling prey to gang violence. This is a national emergency.
“If austerity is over as Theresa May has claimed, the chancellor must use the Budget next week to provide the funds urgently needed to keep children safe.”
The Labour leader’s visit to Norwich comes after a coalition of 120 organisations including charities, teaching unions and medical colleges sent an open letter to Philip Hammond and Theresa May warning that children’s services are at breaking point.
Local authorities have also warned that council-run children’s services are fast approaching a “tipping point” and are struggling to maintain services in the face of a funding gap which could reach £3bn by 2025.
This week also saw the Local Government Association (LGA) publish Department for Education figures which show that the number of children nationally who are supported through a child protection plan to keep them safe from harm has seen its biggest increase in four years in the past 12 months.
The number now stands at almost 54,000, 84pc higher than a decade ago.
The LGA says these figures prove that funding for children’s services must be addressed in Monday’s Budget.
What is happening to Norfolk’s children’s centres?
Jeremy Corbyn’s visit comes at a time of turmoil for Norfolk’s children’s centres.
A consultation is currently under way over proposals from Norfolk County Council to close 46 of the county’s 53 children’s centres, as part of a review into the service.
Seven of the existing children’s centres would remain open as bases in each of the county’s districts.
County Hall bosses say the move would bring services out of buildings and into the community and would help provide more support to the children and families most in need. They say places such as schools, village halls and libraries could host the services currently provided in children’s centres.
In February the council halved its budget for children’s centres from £10m to £5m, with the contracts for the 12 current services providers due to come to an end next year.
The consultation runs until Friday, November 9 and can be viewed at www.norfolk.gov.uk/childrenscentres.