Future of Suffolk’s children centres to be decided today

A final decision will be made today on the plans to shake-up the provision of children's centres in

A final decision will be made today on the plans to shake-up the provision of children's centres in Suffolk, such as the Caterpillar Children's Centre in Woodbridge. Picture: GOOGLE MAPS - Credit: Archant

Plans for a major overhaul of children’s centres in Suffolk are to be put before Suffolk County Council’s cabinet for the final time today.

The proposals, which were published last week following the consultation, revealed that 17 centres will remain open full time, 11 will be open part time, eight will be “re-purposed” as either nursery or school provision and two would close entirely.

In today’s meeting, cabinet members will vote on whether the plans for the new “family hubs” should be given the green light.

There have been many arguments for and against the proposed changes to the services, with conservative cabinet member for children’s services, Mary Evans, stating they “want to get support into areas they are not currently reaching”.

Mrs Evans said the plans will be “more reflective of the world we live in” and will cater for 0-19 year olds instead of the current provision of 0-5.

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The changes are expected to save around £435,000, which Mrs Evans said would be pumped back into the service and recruit 12 new outreach workers.

MORE: Final list of Suffolk children’s centre changes unveiled ahead of decision next weekThe opposition Labour group has continued to campaign against the changes – which will see Chatterbox in Ipswich and Caterpillar in Woodbridge close entirely.

Councillor Jack Abbott, children’s services spokesman with the group said the plans would “hollow out” the county’s children’s services provision and “weaken family services”.

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He said: “The impact of making cuts to 21 of Suffolk’s remaining 38 children’s centres will be profound.”

Meanwhile, trade union UNISON said staff are being “gagged” ahead of today’s crucial vote.

It claims staff were told in meetings last week not to speak to the public or press about the planned cuts to the service.

UNISON and the Labour opposition group have urged the council not to make far-reaching decisions on the service’s future during the Covid-19 pandemic.

MORE: Should Suffolk children’s centres revamp decision be made while coronavirus continues?

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