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'It would be tragic if they closed' - parents on threatened children's centres

PUBLISHED: 14:25 08 September 2019 | UPDATED: 10:30 20 September 2019

Pippa Judd and daughter Iona Ayers,10 Picture: MARIAM GHAEMI

Pippa Judd and daughter Iona Ayers,10 Picture: MARIAM GHAEMI

Archant

Parents have spoken about the vital support they have received from children's centres, saying it would be "tragic" if some were to close.

Bryony Baines with 14-month-old daughter Rowan Picture: MARIAM GHAEMIBryony Baines with 14-month-old daughter Rowan Picture: MARIAM GHAEMI

Yesterday, the Labour Party campaigned in ten locations across Suffolk to highlight the damage Suffolk County Council's proposed cuts to children's centres would cause.

Bury St Edmunds currently has three children's centres, but it is understood Hardwick could be "repurposed" and the Bury St Edmunds Library children's centre could see its hours cut. Carousel is proposed to remain open.

READ MORE: Big revamp planned for Suffolk's children's centres - here's what you need to know

Pippa Judd, from Bury St Edmunds and whose daughter Iona Ayers is now 10, said how important Carousel Children's Centre, in St Olaves Road, Bury, had been when she moved to the area.

Ms Judd, who has worked in children's centres, said: "I didn't know anyone so that's where I needed to go to make friends and learn about the area. I think without them I would have been quite isolated really.

Campaigners over children's centres in Bury St Edmunds Picture: NICOLA IANNELLI-POPHAMCampaigners over children's centres in Bury St Edmunds Picture: NICOLA IANNELLI-POPHAM

"Even if you are familiar with the area it's such a big shift and change when you become a mum, and don't forget dads too. Having that support after becoming a parent is really important.

"Sometime it's as simple as being able to say 'is that normal?' All those things you worry about."

Ms Judd, who has also worked in supporting new mothers' mental wellbeing, also spoke of the importance of children's centres as places where there can be early intervention in areas like mental health.

She added: "In the short-term it might look like they are saving millions of pounds, but in the long term it could cost a hell of a lot more."

People in Ipswich taking part in a ‘Save Suffolk’s Children'’s Centres’ day of action, led by the Labour party Picture: JACK ABBOTTPeople in Ipswich taking part in a ‘Save Suffolk’s Children'’s Centres’ day of action, led by the Labour party Picture: JACK ABBOTT

Bryony Baines, from Woolpit and mother to 14-month-old Rowan, has used a number of children's centres in the area.

"They have been absolutely brilliant. They have been a really great resource. The best thing I did with them was the session on weaning. I found it hugely useful.

"We didn't really know what we were doing and it gave us all the information we needed to feel confident about her starting on solids."

She said the centres gave parents who might be struggling somewhere to go that's free where issues can be spotted.

People at Saxmundham taking part in a day of action to People at Saxmundham taking part in a day of action to "Save Suffolk’s Children’'s Centres" Picture: Suffolk Coastal Constituency Labour Party

"Otherwise if you never see anyone no-one will ever pick up you are struggling and you might not feel you can ask for help.

"Having regular play sessions means you can start to meet other mums. Being a parent can be isolating."

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Stowmarket campaigners taking part in the day of action over children's centres Picture: STOWMARKET & MID SUFFOLK LABOUR PARTYStowmarket campaigners taking part in the day of action over children's centres Picture: STOWMARKET & MID SUFFOLK LABOUR PARTY

The Labour Party says it will put up a fight for children's centres

Nicola Iannelli-Popham, a Labour town councillor for Abbeygate in Bury St Edmunds, said children's centres were "really important" for so many parents.

She said: "We know children's services all over are being cut and there are no youth centres any longer and it's tragic. Now to be hitting parents with small children is ghastly."

She added: "Bury is a growing town. We have large developments going on and it's a young town. They need those services."

Kai Fitzgerald taking part in the Newmarket day of action on children's centres. Picture: KEVIN YARROWKai Fitzgerald taking part in the Newmarket day of action on children's centres. Picture: KEVIN YARROW

Kevin Yarrow, secretary of the Newmarket Labour Party, said: "Children's centres are a really essential service, and it's vital they do stay open. The Tories are picking on the most vulnerable."

Councillor Jack Abbott, Labour's spokesman for children's services, education and skills, said: "We are not going to allow the Conservatives to cut even more children's centres without a fight. These centres are a lifeline for many families, so we will stand alongside parents and their children, doing everything we can to prevent this disaster.

"The response to our county-wide day of action was overwhelming - ten locations in every corner of Suffolk saw hundreds of people sign our petition against these brutal cuts. It underlines just how important children's centres are to so many of Suffolk's residents.

"With organisations like the British Association of Social Workers also warning about the devastating impact that these cuts would have on families, it is clear that these damaging proposals need to be dropped.

Jess and Emma Unwin at the day of action for children's centres in Newmarket. Picture: KEVIN YARROWJess and Emma Unwin at the day of action for children's centres in Newmarket. Picture: KEVIN YARROW

"The Tories at Suffolk County Council must not repeat the same mistake as they did when they ignored the overwhelming opposition to their school transport cuts. They need to listen to families, experts and campaigners and ditch their senseless plans for Suffolk's children's centres."

What Suffolk County Council has said

Previously, Conservative councillor Gordon Jones, cabinet member for education and children's services, said it was about "living within our means while trying to deliver the best possible service".

Campaigners in Newmarket fighting cuts to children's centres. Picture: KEVIN YARROWCampaigners in Newmarket fighting cuts to children's centres. Picture: KEVIN YARROW

He said: "It's about having a service which reflects the needs of today, changes in social media and the way we communicate.

"Buildings don't deliver services, it's the people who do. It's really to target those families who really need our services, and trying to get early intervention because we all know the sooner you address a problem the better the outcomes.

"We are all reluctant to change - that's human nature, and this is no different."

There is due to be consultation on the plans soon.

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