Read parents’ responses to consultation on future of Norfolk’s children’s centres
More than 4,500 people responded to the consultation on the future of Norfolk’s children’s centres.
A “great and necessary service”. An “invaluable resource”. A “vital link between parents and the help they need”.
These are some of the ways Norfolk’s children’s centres were described in a public consultation on proposals which could see more than 80pc of them shut.
The consultation on Norfolk County Council’s plans to close all but seven of the county’s 53 children’s centres saw thousands of responses from the public – 3,340 paper responses and 1,160 online responses were collected, while 800 comments were made online which will be submitted with the results.
In the responses, the proposals were labelled as “short-sighted” and “reckless”.
Many parents said their centre had provided vital support for them and their children in times of need.
One said: “My local children’s centre has been a lifeline for me, especially when my son was very small.”
Another wrote: “Having somewhere to go for support and classes on my doorstep has been a Godsend and brilliant for my baby’s development and my mental state.”
One more said: “I think I’d have gone a bit mad without them, they were a real lifeline. The thought that these wonderful centres could be taken away makes me sad and angry.”
A former Norfolk headteacher said they had seen the “enormous benefits to local families, many of whom would have struggled without support” that children’s centres provide.
Another commentator said: “Children’s centres were set up to help families in need... there are more than ever families in need.”
Norfolk County Council says the services currently offered at children’s centres could be moved out of buildings and into the community – but with the budget for them being cut from £10m to £5m, some are sceptical that the same level of support could continue.
The authority has proposed to replace some of the services with online alternatives.
But one consultation reply said: “Someone desperately trying to escape domestic violence or having a mental health crisis is not going to engage with an online service. They need somewhere safe to go where someone will listen to them.”
In October Jeremy Corbyn joined the fight with a visit to the North City Children’s Centre in Norwich, at which he said a Labour government would halt the closure of children’s centres.
The council has stressed that the proposals to close the centres is one element of a wider programme to transform children’s services, which has seen millions of pounds invested.
Its children’s services committee is scheduled to discuss the findings of the consultation at its January meeting.