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Axe falls on Cambridgeshire children’s centres despite strong opposition

By Ben Comber

Childrens centre protesteers outside Shire Hall. Picture by @trbl_up_tmillrd
Childrens centre protesteers outside Shire Hall. Picture by @trbl_up_tmillrd

Savings of £900,000 will be made by the county council by altering the way it runs children’s centres.

The changes mean that many of the children's centres in the county will be closed, and 16 management posts will be cut to five - one for each district.

There will now be a network of 10 child and family centres over 15 sites across the county, and 12 child and family zones that will replace the 40 centres the county operates.

Some of the remaining children's centre buildings will provide additional early years childcare provision.

The centres are placed where high need has been identified.

The council says they will have extended opening hours and skilled staff.

The zones are where other activities and programmes will be delivered in community buildings, like libraries and health centres.

There has been strong opposition to the proposal, with a protest yesterday and a petition presented to councillors before the debate.

Petition organiser Nicky Shepard addressed the council. She said that she went to the council's children's centre every day when she was a new mother 10 years ago.

"I am the type of mother who would have slipped through the cracks,she said.

"I dread to think what would have happened to me and my family had the worker at the local children's centre not mentioned to me that it might be worth talking to my GP about postnatal depression.

"My heart breaks for the thousands and thousands of people across this county who will be affected by these proposals, for the babies and the young children who will not have the support they need, for the communities that will not be formed by the mums and parents and families in these villages, for the thousands of people who will slip through the cracks because they also are not 'red flag' enough to be picked up by your new system."

She said that 4,000 people signed her petition against the children's centres proposals.

The consultation that informed the plans had 2,280 responses.

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Cllr Simon Bywater, chairman of the children and young people committee, said:"We understand that having services in good, family-friendly, accessible buildings is important and this will continue with a good level of provision across the whole county.

"We want to see our improved child family centres and zones being the go-to place for any parent to access services or information about all family-related matters and be places where we offer activities and interventions for families, and support for separated or separating families.

"I can assure you today that we will be making sure that there continues to be a full range of services provided for all children as part of the child and family centre offer, and new and first-time partners will continue to be a priority."

There were 31 votes for, with 22 against, at full council, cutting next year's budget for child and family services to £4.3million.


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