Mass children’s centre closures proposed for Norfolk County Council

A massive 46 out of 53 children’s centres could close under plans announced by Norfolk County Council in a bid to balance the books.

Norfolk— who in July took an extra year to deliver savings to be “more realistic”— has launched an eight-week consultation into proposals for the new service that would leave just seven centres left when new contracts begin in September 2019.

Chairman of the children’s services committee Cllr Penny Carpenter said: “We want to get the right help to children and families as early as possible and create services that are fit for today’s families.

“By spending our money on frontline services, rather than buildings, we’ll be able to provide more focused one-to-one and group support, with a more consistent service across the county.

The current contracts for the children’s centres were originally awarded in 2011, and the contracts expiring in September next year gives the council the opportunity to create a new service that is “consistent across the county.”

New proposals include a base in each district of the county in one of the county’s current children’s centres. The base will be a touch-down space for staff working out in the community, as well as providing space to deliver activities for families in need.

Cllr Carpenter noted that around a quarter of those families who live in areas of greatest need are not accessing children’s centre services currently, adding that the council wants to “develop a service that gives them the support and help they need for their children.”

She explained: “We’ve agreed significant investment over four years to develop new ways of working. This includes a range of projects to help support families to keep their children safe at home.”

The announcement comes at a time when Norfolk are, like many local authorities around the UK, facing financial difficulties. Norfolk CC announced last week that demands for adult and children’s social care will lead to an overspend by £5.6m unless further action is taken to reduce costs.

Cllr Andrew Proctor said: “Like all county councils, we’re facing continual financial pressure but we are moving forward with plans to tackle it.  We are taking action and we are not complacent with our approach.

“I’m determined the county council will maintain that focus – every saving that isn’t delivered on time adds further pressure.”

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