UNISON has welcomed support from Jeremy Corbyn in the fight to keep Norfolk’s children’s centres open.
The Labour Party leader visited a centre in Norwich to warn of the “national emergency” facing children’s services.
Norfolk’s children and families are at the sharp end of the emergency following the Tory-run council’s decision to shut 46 of the 53 centres across the county to make millions of pounds worth of savings demanded by central government.
Mr Corbyn will highlight figures showing that 23,000 children under the age of five have used these centres in the past year, warning that these cuts could cause long-term damage to children’s lives and lead to more children in care, excluded from school or falling prey to criminal gangs.
Pointing to the ongoing mental health care crisis, Mr Corbyn will warn of a growing crisis in public services that support children, with only one in four young people who require mental health services able to access help from the NHS, and a surge in the number of children being taken into care pushing overstretched local authorities towards financial catastrophe.
Local authorities have warned that council-run children’s services are fast approaching a “tipping point” and are struggling to maintain services in the face of a funding gap of £3bn by 2025.
“Tory austerity is putting children’s lives in danger,” Mr Corbyn said.
“Cutting the services that protect and support children and young people is a tragic false economy that will blight the lives of millions of children and young people.
“These cuts risk more children ending up in care, excluded from school or falling prey to gang violence. This is a national emergency.
“If austerity is over as Theresa May has claimed, the Chancellor must use the budget next week to provide the funds urgently needed to keep children safe.”
UNISON Eastern regional secretary Chris Jenkinson said: “Jeremy Corbyn is right to draw attention to the looming catastrophe in children’s services up and down Britain.
“Norfolk County Council is sacrificing our kids’ futures to make a short-term saving of £5m. But it won’t be long before it has to pay out that sum many times over as social services are left to pick up the pieces from this suffocating belt-tightening exercise.
“We hope politicians in County Hall and the Commons heed Jeremy’s warnings and put some much-needed cash into these vital services.”