Green light for changes to children’s centres in Waveney
- Credit: Archant
Radical changes to children’s centres provision in Suffolk have been given the final approval after more than a year in the pipeline.
Suffolk County Council’s cabinet gave the green light to close two centres – Caterpillar Children’s Centre in Woodbridge and Chatterbox in Ipswich – as well as hand eight centres back to schools or nurseries they are attached to, and turn 11 into part-time hubs. Seventeen will remain open full-time.
Three Lowestoft centres – Kirkley, Riverside and The Ark will remain open full time, along with Butterflies in Beccles, while Village Rise in Lowestoft will remain open on a part-time basis.
Uplands in Carlton Colville is one of the eight to close and be re-purposed for nursery provision.
The changes aim to offer more outreach services to help those in hard-to-reach rural areas and cater for 0-19 year olds instead of the current 0-5 offering.
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The new model, called family hubs, should save around £435,000 in building costs which will be pumped into staffing, helping recruit 12 outreach workers.
Conservative cabinet member for children’s services and education, Mary Evans, said: “Family hubs are the natural evolution of the work of our children’s centres.
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“Buildings do not serve communities, it is people who do that and it is our health and children’s centre staff who make the impact, not the building where they are based.”
Mrs Evans said there would be no redundancies, and savings made from buildings would be re-invested in the service, and added that it will have a “long-lasting benefit for the families of Suffolk”.
But the Labour group spokesman for children’s services questioned whether errors found in a previous report remained as some of the data expected to be updated as a result of initial errors had not been changed.
He continued that the buildings are “incredible refuges for people” and added: “People who do this day-in day-out are saying these proposals do not stack up.”
Changes will be introduced on a site-by-site basis, with dates to be announced in due course.
Penny Otton, from the Liberal Democrat, Green and Independent group, said while there was no objection to the family hub model itself, there were questions over the closures, adding there were “still serious flaws with the data used to justify these cuts” and was “clearly not an evidence-based decision”.
Neil Bland from UNISON described it as a “sad day for many Suffolk families”.