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Campaigners to meet in town in bid to save under-threat children's centres

PUBLISHED: 16:13 25 April 2019 | UPDATED: 16:13 25 April 2019

A campaign to save under threat children's centres. Picture: RACHEL EDGE

A campaign to save under threat children's centres. Picture: RACHEL EDGE

Rachel Edge

Campaigners fighting to save 'lifeline' children's centres will meet in Lowestoft to protest against possible closures.

Cllr Jack Abbott. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNCllr Jack Abbott. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

A number of centres across Suffolk, including those in Lowestoft, are under the threat of closure as part of a wide-ranging review of services, with as many as half of the existing 38 being eyed for closure, sources indicated earlier this month.

The campaign was launched by Ipswich MP Sandy Martin, with protesters assembling in Ipswich and Bury St Edmunds in the weeks following the announcement.

On Friday, April 26, campaigners and families will meet outside The Ark Children's Centre, on Water Lane, in Lowestoft.

Councillor Jack Abbott, Labour spokesman for children's services, education and skills at Suffolk County Council, said: “For too long the Tories at Suffolk County Council have been taking part in a race to the bottom, with their managed decline of public services continuing unabated.

A campaign to save under threat children's centres. Picture: RACHEL EDGEA campaign to save under threat children's centres. Picture: RACHEL EDGE

“They have got to start thinking five, ten, twenty years ahead and ask themselves 'what will the future hold for children and families in Suffolk if we remove these lifelines?'

“It is time the Conservatives realise the value in properly funding children's centres, support services, early intervention and youth provision. Investment in these areas would not only bring huge social benefits to children and their families, but it will also save the council money further down the line.

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“Let's hope the Tories wake up and realise their mistake before it is too late.”

Conservative chiefs have stressed no decision has been made and all options continue to be considered, with any recommendations to be assessed with a full public consultation.

Conservative cabinet member for children's services, education and skills, Gordon Jones, said: “With any change there is a full consultation, that is recognised.

“Equally, we could put a little bit more fact out there and if there are any proposals explain some of the thinking behind them.

“We must remember that the buildings don't deliver the services, it's people who do that.

“Since the late 1990s when the children's centres were first set up things have changed.

“Suffolk County Council have a much closer working relationship with the CCGs [clinical commissioning groups]. We have the alliance working implemented. We now have health visitors in house and we are now remodelling the 0-19 service which has come in house.

“Things have changed and we want to see which the best model is to continue, not only for the present but for the future.”

Campaigners have also launched a petition to save the centres, which can be found at: www.ipswich-labour.org.uk/save_suffolk_s_children_s_centres

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