Children's centres changes and closures likely in Suffolk

Suffolk County Council has launched a review of its Children’s Centre service with a view to strengthening its current family offer and expanding services.

However, the plans, which are part of a consultation running until 1 March 2020, have been heavily criticised by opposition councillors. Under the plans, two of Suffolk's 38 centres would close with a further nine repurposed to provide nursery care. As it stands, the remaining 27 centres would become family hubs, though 11 will operate part-time under plans going out to consultation.

The council stresses that the changes would not enforce any reduction in service budget, suggesting instead that any savings made through the process, such as existing building costs, will be re-invested back into the 0-19 service to strengthen the current offer to families.

The proposal is to have at least one main Family Hub in each area of Suffolk and provide services from other community sites closer to families. A Family Hub offers a range of services to families for all children and young people aged 0-19 and carers, with a particular focus on supporting the most vulnerable.

Mary Evans, cabinet member for Children’s Services, Education and Skills, said: “Whilst the proposal offers a range of ideas that I believe will strengthen and expand our service offer to young people aged 0-19, I strongly believe in listening and taking on board the views and ideas of families who currently use the service and also from those who may look to begin using the service in years to come. I want to make it very clear that this review is all about improving our current and future offer for the most vulnerable families and communities in Suffolk who need access to such services including Early Years. Any potential savings made as part of this review to current arrangements will be re-invested back into the service to broaden the current offer for families and young people aged 0-19 in Suffolk.

“I encourage everyone to take part and offer your valued opinion and ideas as part of the process, particularly if you and your family currently access the range of services we provide or might look to use them in the future. Whilst some communities may be considering sending group forms of representation as part of the process, I would really hope that every person interested in really helping us develop these services for the future also takes the time to fully complete their own questionnaire to ensure we capture every view and idea so we can fully consider these as part of the process before any decision is taken.”