UNISON opposes the proposals from Norfolk County Council to close 46 of the 53 Children’s Centres. This proposal arises from a decision to cut the budget from £10m to £5m/annum made in February 2018. That proposal made no mention of centre closures. UNISON have long raised concerns about NCC setting budgets promising savings but with no detail as to how they will be made. That makes the public consultation on the budget next to meaningless and the imminent consultation on “Transforming our Children’s Centres” of limited value unless the County Council say they could reconsider the budget cut if the public called for this. UNISON will be seeking clarification of this from NCC.
UNISON are not convinced county councillors understand the role Children’s Centres play in our education and social care systems. UNISON believe this proposal will have a devastating impact on Norfolk’s children and families. We also believe it will lead to increased referrals to social services and eventually increased numbers of Looked After Children. This could end up costing significantly more than the £5m they hope to spend.
We are also wary about claims that a new service will be delivered in the community. Similar claims were made when NCC closed their Youth & Community Service yet nothing has replaced the service provided by the Youth Centres that NCC decided to close. We do not believe the £5m saving can be delivered from just the cost of the buildings; it has to be a significant proportion of staff. We will be seeking more information from NCC on this.
It is disappointing that consultation document makes no reference to the real reason for the proposal. We do not believe children’s centres would close but for the fact that the Government has significantly reduced NCC’s budget. This proposal would be seen with more credibility if it was presented as a damage limitation as NCC manages the huge cuts that have been imposed upon them by Government.
What you can do?
- Respond to the consultation
- Write to your local county councillor telling them the job you do and the risks to the people they represent from the centre closing. Keep it factual and polite. Ask them whether they will speak out against this proposal and argue for the retention of your centre and increased funding to keep all Children’s Centres open. Please copy any address to UNISON.
- Norman Lamb MP and Clive Lewis MP have already spoken out against this proposal. If you have a Conservative MP write to them in the same way as you have to county councillors.
Copy any response to UNISON Office, County Hall, Martineau Lane, Norwich, NR1 2DH or by Email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Jonathan Dunning , Branch Secretary
20 September 2018