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One children’s centre saved but critics say council is not going far enough

PUBLISHED: 10:20 15 January 2019 | UPDATED: 13:22 15 January 2019

Norfolk MEP Alex Mayer and Thetford councillor Terry Jermy joined local Thetford residents in opposing the closure of the children's centre. Picture: Neil Didsbury

Norfolk MEP Alex Mayer and Thetford councillor Terry Jermy joined local Thetford residents in opposing the closure of the children's centre. Picture: Neil Didsbury

Archant

One of Thetford’s children’s centres could be saved after a County Hall rethink but the move does not go far enough according to critics.

Amber Rout, who campaigned against the closure of the centres, and her daughter Saffron. Picture: Amber RoutAmber Rout, who campaigned against the closure of the centres, and her daughter Saffron. Picture: Amber Rout

However, 38 centres across the county will still be closed, with the centres at Methwold, Watton, and at Drake Primary School in Thetford all set to shut.

Council plans could see 15 centres across the county saved, with two in each district and three in Norwich.

Norfolk County Council made the changes after concerns were raised during a consultation which saw 1,600 people respond.

Amber Rout, a single mum from Thetford who spoke out about the closures, said the proposals felt like a token gesture.

She said: “I don’t think they have done enough and keeping a few open seems like a token gesture and keeping a few that they view as essential is one thing but in my view they are all essential.

“Everyone is trying to cut money where they can but in regards to how homelessness is, how poverty is, and how people are struggling on Universal Credit, I don’t think they are looking at the right places.”

Mrs Rout was 15 when she had her daughter, Saffron, and lived off cornflakes as she struggled to survive on her own, using the children’s centres as a refuge.

She added: “I was so pleased when I heard and it shows how they are needed and there are a lot of people who make use of them and people who will use them in the future.

“I do understand cuts if they are not being used but if they are being used I think it is really short sighted and not looking into the future.”

Labour councillor for Thetford West Terry Jermy said any proposal must be viewed sceptically until the full details are released.

He said: “Given the scale of the engagement, they couldn’t just plough ahead regardless. Whether it goes far enough remains to be seen.

“I have always maintained that there needs to be at least one children’s centre in Thetford moving forward and the evidence is clear there is enough demand to support one.

“But I don’t think they have listened enough. The consultation itself was a bit of a sham because it was poorly organised and what people were being consulted on was very misleading.”

Stuart Dark, chairman of the council’s children’s services committee, said: “We have listened and have updated our proposals.

“I believe we can provide effective, targeted support to children and families, through outreach support in people’s homes and venues across the county, plus 15 early childhood and family bases in the areas of highest need.

“It’s clear people also value sessions that any family can access, so we’re proposing to provide those at our bases and all our libraries.”

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