Norfolk County Council are considering proposals that would see 46 of Norfolk’s 53 children’s centres closed down.
From October 2019, the East Anglian county could be left with just 7 daytime centres after the Council agreed in February that the budget for such centres would be halved from £10 million to £5 million, with contracts for the twelve providers of centres ending adjacently. Under this proposal, the remaining seven centres, one in each district, would then become ‘Early Childhood and Family Bases’. The de-registered centres could, according to the council, then be used in the delivery of other community focused services.
Why ‘Early Childhood and Family Bases’?
Under the Council’s proposals, these ‘Bases’ would essentially provide a springboard from which the Council could launch their ‘Early Childhood and Family Service’, also detailed in the proposal.
The aim of the service would be to engage with families with children from birth to the age of five, providing additional help to those who may be struggling to ‘cope with the demands of family life’. They plan to provide such outreach by taking up positions within local community venues, such as schools, libraries and village halls.
Unsurprisingly, and as with any significant changes to the structure of childcare, the move has garnered much criticism, as highlighted by a 5,500-signature strong petition against reviewing the role of the childcare centres. The Council, however, argues that by bringing the services out of buildings and into the folds of the community, it will allow for a greater proportion of the (halved) budget to be spent on providing services and staff for the families in greatest need.
Councillor Penny Carpenter is enthused by the prospect, stating that “by spending out money in 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”.
Norfolk Labour group, however, are less than impressed with the proposals. Deputy leader Emma Corlett deemed the cuts and their foreseen outcomes as “devastating, savage and offensive”. She furthered criticised the council for being “short-sighted”, which is a justifiable comment, but then no decision was ever made in hindsight.
Consultations end November 9th.