Domestic abuse charities praise role of under-threat Norfolk children’s centres

James Wright, Liberal Democrat chairman of Norwich City Council's scrutiny committee. Pic: Stuart Mc

James Wright, Liberal Democrat chairman of Norwich City Council's scrutiny committee. Pic: Stuart McPherson. - Credit: Stuart McPherson

The important role which Norfolk's under-threat children's centres play in tackling domestic abuse has been highlighted by charities.

Kerri McAuley. Pic: McAuley family.

Kerri McAuley. Pic: McAuley family. - Credit: Archant

Forty-six of Norfolk's 53 children's centres could be closed under county council proposals to review the service.

Just seven of the existing children's centres would remain as bases in each district of the county, but County Hall bosses say it will bring services out of buildings and into the community.

However, at a meeting of Norwich City Council's scrutiny committee, Norwich-based domestic abuse charity Leeway and children's charity Spurgeons outlined the importance of the centres to their work.

James Wright, the Liberal Democrat chairman of the committee, asked whether the children's centres were places where victims of domestic abuse were identified.

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Margaret Hill, from Leeway, said: 'Children's centres are great places for us to do drop-in work and they have been really supportive of us.'

She said if domestic abuse victims were struggling with parenting skills, Leeway encouraged them to make use of children's centres to help get them those skills.

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And, she said, because abusive partners were unlikely to go to children's centres they were a good place to display posters urging victims to get help.

Spurgeons this month launched a new Norwich Connect project to improve help and support for families and individuals experiencing domestic abuse.

And John Lee, from Spurgeons, said since it went live on Wednesday, November 14, every referral to the scheme had come via children's centres.

The committee heard how there were more than 17,000 reports of domestic abuse to Norfolk police in 2017/18, with an average of two domestic abuse homicides each year.

In 2017, Norwich mother-of-two Kerri McAuley, 32, was murdered by her abusive ex-partner Joe Storey.

A serious case review found there had been a series of missed opportunities to protect Ms McAuley.

Consultation over Norfolk County Council's proposals over children's centres recently closed.

A report will go before the county council's children's services committee in January.

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