Suffolk

Suffolk County Council plans to scrap children's centres

Caterpillar Centre Image copyright Google
Image caption The Caterpillar Centre in Woodbridge is one of two sites which would close under the plans

Children's centres supporting families with health and parenting issues will be scrapped under council plans.

Two of Suffolk's 38 centres would close if county council proposals go ahead, with a further nine repurposed to provide nursery care.

The remaining 27 centres would become family hubs, though 11 will operate part-time under plans going out to consultation.

Opposition councillors have criticised the "brutal" changes.

The Conservative-run council wants to provide children and family services through an expanded family hub system, with additional mobile teams in more rural parts of the county.

The hubs will offer similar services to children's centres, such as toddler groups and advice from partner agencies, as well as sessions such as youth groups, work for excluded pupils, and mental health access for young people up to the age of 19.

The Caterpillar Centre in Woodbridge and the Chatterbox Centre in north Ipswich will be closed as part of the plan.

Proposals last summer recommended that 13 of the 38 centres should close.

'Devastating attack'

Mary Evans, Conservative cabinet member for children's services, education and skills, said: "These changes are needed to get the support and help we give to the most disadvantaged families out in the areas where they live, rather than being stuck in children's centres."

The council said no jobs would be lost, budgets would not be affected and that any savings made would be reinvested in the services.

Jack Abbott, Labour spokesperson for children's services and education, said the effects would be wide-ranging.

"This would represent one of the most devastating attacks on public services that we have seen in recent times, with closures taking place in every corner of Suffolk," he said.

Councillor Penny Otton, leader of the Liberal Democrat, Green and Independent group, said it sounded like funding would be "spread much more thinly".

"I'm glad the Conservatives have now said they won't be looking for financial savings, but I would like reassurance that there won't be any reduction in service quality either."

A public consultation will last until 1 March.

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