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Jeremy Corbyn says closing children’s centres in Norfolk would be ‘disastrous’

PUBLISHED: 18:13 27 October 2018 | UPDATED: 12:54 28 October 2018

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn chatting to a young girl at the North City children's Centre which has been earmarked for closure. Picture: Neil Didsbury

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn chatting to a young girl at the North City children's Centre which has been earmarked for closure. Picture: Neil Didsbury

Archant

Jeremy Corbyn has claimed a proposal to close almost all of Norfolk’s children’s centres could have “disastrous” consequences for the county’s most vulnerable families.

On a visit to a children’s centre in Norwich the Labour leader spoke to staff and parents to find out first-hand how the service had helped them.

Speaking to this newspaper, parents said the children’s centre had been a “salvation” for them and provided a “safe space” in difficult times.

It comes as Norfolk County Council continues to consult on proposals which could see 46 of the county’s 53 children’s centres close and services moved to other buildings such as libraries and village halls.

Numerous protests have taken place against the proposals – but County Hall bosses said the plans have been “misrepresented” and insisted that “services are more important than buildings”.

Parents voicing their concerns to Jeremy Corbyn during his visit to North City Children's Centre
Picture: Neil DidsburyParents voicing their concerns to Jeremy Corbyn during his visit to North City Children's Centre Picture: Neil Didsbury

During his visit to the North City Children’s Centre in Angel Road on Saturday, Mr Corbyn said: “I think the idea you would close one [a children’s centre] is not just sad, it is disastrous. What a terrible message it sends to the next generation – somehow or other, you have got to make your own way.

“Surely we as a society should be investing in the next generation.”

Mr Corbyn said a Labour government would reopen children’s centres and return to the “very successful” model of Sure Start centres, introduced by Tony Blair’s government.

He added: “I think it is tragic that in the name of austerity they [the Conservative government] are hitting the most needy and the most vulnerable people in our society.”

Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn talks to parents and staff at the North City Children's Centre in Angel Road, Norwich. Picture: Bethany WhymarkLabour party leader Jeremy Corbyn talks to parents and staff at the North City Children's Centre in Angel Road, Norwich. Picture: Bethany Whymark

Mr Corbyn said children’s centres offered a valuable service for parents as well as children, being able to offer advice on jobs and benefits and support for those who speak English as a second language.

“They give a great start to kids in life and a great support to parents who often go through a great deal of stress. Having a baby or a young child is very stressful. Making sure that a child physically develops well but also develops well emotionally and educationally is what children’s centres achieve.

“They also look at the family as a whole. That is what is good and has been the great achievement of children’s centres,” he said.

Stuart Dark, chairman of Norfolk County Council’s children’s services committee, said: “It’s disappointing but unsurprising to see our proposals misrepresented, which only serves to upset and unsettle parents and children.

“I think services are more important than buildings and I believe our proposed early childhood and family service will reach the most vulnerable people - many of whom don’t currently use children’s centres. I would encourage everyone to read the detail on our website and take part in the consultation.”

Take part in the children’s centres consultation at www.norfolk.gov.uk/childrenscentres.

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