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'I'd be lost without it' - campaigners fight to save county's children's centres

PUBLISHED: 14:35 26 April 2019 | UPDATED: 14:35 26 April 2019

Campaigners gathered at The Ark in Lowestoft to protest against the potential closure of children's centres across Suffolk. Picture: Mick Howes

Campaigners gathered at The Ark in Lowestoft to protest against the potential closure of children's centres across Suffolk. Picture: Mick Howes

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Campaigners gathered to protest against the potential closure of "crucial" children's centres in the region.

Danielle Wanless, from Carlton Colville, says her family would be lost without The Ark Children's Centre in Lowestoft. Picture: Mick HowesDanielle Wanless, from Carlton Colville, says her family would be lost without The Ark Children's Centre in Lowestoft. Picture: Mick Howes

Sources indicated earlier this month that as many as half of Suffolk's 38 existing centres are being eyed for closure as part of sweeping cost-cutting measures.

Facilities in Lowestoft, including The Ark Children's Centre on Water Lane, are among those under threat as a wide-ranging review of the county's services is carried out.

This morning (April 26), protestors determined to see the centres stay open met at The Ark to voice their dismay at the possible changes.

Danielle Wanless, whose son William suffers from autism, says attending The Ark has been immeasurably beneficial to his development.

Campaigners gathered at The Ark in Lowestoft to protest against the potential closure of children's centres across Suffolk. Picture: Mick HowesCampaigners gathered at The Ark in Lowestoft to protest against the potential closure of children's centres across Suffolk. Picture: Mick Howes

“The professionals here picked up his autism and got us all the help we needed, but in mainstream nursery I don't think we would have got the help,” said Miss Wanless, 30, from Carlton Colville. “They're absolutely amazing and I couldn't ask for better support.

“William gets bad separation anxiety so coming here has helped him significantly. He's due to move up to reception in September but, without the help he's received, he wouldn't have stood a chance.

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“Without these centres we'd all struggle because it's not just the nursery that's important - it's the support workers, the health visitors and midwives who work here as well.

Among the campaigners is Jack Abbott, Labour’s spokesman for children’s services, education and skills at Suffolk County Council. Picture: Mick HowesAmong the campaigners is Jack Abbott, Labour’s spokesman for children’s services, education and skills at Suffolk County Council. Picture: Mick Howes

“We've been coming here for nearly four years and I'd be absolutely lost without it.”

Amid widespread concerns, Conservative chiefs have stressed no decision has been made and say a public consultation will assess recommendations made by the council's policy development panel (PDP).

Gordon Jones, the Conservative cabinet member for children's services, education and skills, said the council wanted to “see which the best model is to continue”.

Launched by Ipswich MP Sandy Martin last week, the ongoing protest will see campaigners including Jack Abbott - Labour's spokesman for children's services, education and skills - visit numerous locations across Suffolk in the coming months.

“These centres are a lifeline for families, especially in places like Lowestoft,” said Mr Abbott.

“They rely on these kinds of services including youth provision, early intervention - support that goes right across the board.

“We know how crucial they are for families, so this campaign is about trying to save our centres.”

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