Suffolk council to close 13 of its 38 family centres

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Image caption,
The Caterpillar Centre in Woodbridge is one of two sites to be closed

A council plans to close a third of its children's centres supporting families with health and parenting issues.

A cross-party panel from Conservative Suffolk County Council has recommended closing 13 of 38 centres and offer help through community outreach teams.

Consultation is to be held on the plan to offer services at 16 full-time and nine part-time centres.

In April, campaigner Anne Humphrys said advice, support and pre-school play sessions at centres were a "lifeline".

Ms Humphrys, co-chair of Suffolk Parent Carer Network, said she wanted to prevent cuts.

She said: "Parents have told us how the centres stopped them being isolated, enabled them to access the right services and bond with their children."

The panel believes children and family services can be expanded from the new family hub system with outreach teams from 55 venues reaching people who need help in 43 different towns and villages.

The hubs will be sited in or near deprived communities and 11 children's centres would be changed to focus on early years or special education needs and disabilities.

The panel is proposing the closure of the Caterpillar centre in Woodbridge and Chatterbox in north Ipswich because of low demand.

'Absolutely furious'

Gordon Jones, cabinet member for children's services, said: "I want to move to full public consultation to speak again to families using these services to see what they think about this proposal."

Jack Abbott, Labour spokesperson for children's services, said: "I am not surprised, but I am absolutely furious.

"These children's centres are a vital lifeline for families.

"They should be ashamed that, once again, they are proposing a policy that will hurt young families and negatively impact the outcomes of children."

The panel's recommendations will be debated by the council's Cabinet on 16 July.

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