Demonstration against children’s centres proposed closures takes place in Kings Lynn
- Credit: Archant
Opponents of proposals to close 46 of Norfolk's 53 children's centres took part in a demonstration in King's Lynn on Sunday.
Norfolk County Council is currently consulting on plans to shut all but seven of its children's centres following a £5m budget cut which was agreed earlier this year.
The council states village halls, schools, libraries and other community buildings could be used to provide children's services without needing specialist buildings.
However, opponents claim the move will mean parents in need will no longer be able to access crucial services for free.
Alexandra Kemp, Labour county councillor for Clenchwarton and King's Lynn South, has warned the changes could worsen mental health in new mothers and put lives at risk.
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She said: 'The county council will end the free face-to-face advice service and free support groups open to all in the children's centre. This makes no sense at all. It is heartless.
'It will put the lives of women and children at risk. I have been to parent and toddler groups, and parents say much they value the service, particularly around mental health issues.'
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She added: 'The county council says it wants to end the stigma around mental health. But what it is doing will stigmatise new mums with post-natal depression.'
Mrs Kemp also said the move out of buildings could lead to the eventual disappearance of the service altogether.
She said: 'Taking the services out of the buildings means parents will not know where to go for advice that literally could mean the difference between life and death.
'Services taken out of buildings can quickly disappear. This must not be allowed to happen.'
Norfolk County Council state in the consultation: 'We want the proposed Early Childhood and Family Service to make a significant difference to the lives of young children and their families.
'Wherever possible, we want families' needs to be met from services set up and run by the local community, and for help and support to be provided by others who have been through similar experiences in the past – this is called peer-led support.
'We want to make sure early childhood and family services are working together across the county so that they are accessible to children and families and respond to their needs.'
The consultation can be found at https://norfolk.citizenspace.com/consultation/childrenscentres-2/consultation/