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Anger as number of jobs facing axe due to Norfolk children's centres closures is revealed

PUBLISHED: 17:50 23 May 2019 | UPDATED: 17:50 23 May 2019

One-year-old Esca Bootman at a previous protest at County Hall against the closure of the children's centres. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

One-year-old Esca Bootman at a previous protest at County Hall against the closure of the children's centres. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Archant

Frontline staff are among at least 60 people who could lose their jobs because of a shake-up which will see all but 15 of Norfolk's children's centres shut.

John Fisher. Pic: Norfolk Conservatives.John Fisher. Pic: Norfolk Conservatives.

Norfolk County Council has decided to close 38 of the county's 53 children's centres, as part of a move away from using centres to directly provide services.

The council is paying charity Action For Children £5.2m to provide a new, targeted, early childhood and family service for families with children aged up to five, including in libraries, village halls and people's homes.

Fifteen centres will remain as bases, but the council has revealed the new structure will have 117.2 full time equivalent posts (FTE), compared to the current 177.5 FTE posts in children's centres - a loss of just over 60 FTE posts.

The authority says, within that figure there will be reduction of 42.81 FTE posts in management and administration, but admitted 17.5 FTE frontline staff jobs would be lost. Consultation with staff starts next week.

Mike Smith-Clare. Pic: Archant Library.Mike Smith-Clare. Pic: Archant Library.

John Fisher, cabinet member for children's services, said: "Our new early childhood and family service is focused on bringing services out of buildings and into local communities, targeting support where it is needed most.

"This means a larger proportion of the budget can be spent on frontline work with children and families and we can reduce management and back office costs.

"We have now agreed a proposed staffing structure with Action for Children and they will begin staff consultation this week.

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"The proposed structure would see 66pc of the budget spent on frontline delivery, compared with 39pc currently.

"However, it will also mean a reduction in some management and administrative posts and we understand that this will be a difficult time for those affected.

"We are working with Action for Children to support these staff and we will be giving those affected a guaranteed interview where there are other appropriate posts available within the county council."

Mike Smith-Clare, Labour spokesman for children and young people said: "We warned these cuts would lead to serious job cuts and less help for families.

"It is an outrage that this far in the whole sorry process families still don't know if they will be able to access what remains of the service, or where it will be provided.

"A large number of staff work part-time, so the actual number of dedicated staff losing their jobs will be much higher.

"It's offensive to those staff facing redundancy to dismiss their roles as 'administrative' or 'management'. These are skilled, dedicated staff, often the first port of call for distressed parents arriving at a centre, or those with the greatest safeguarding experience who protect Norfolk's families."

Lib Dem spokesman Ed Maxfield said: "Once the administration decided to cut £1m from front line funding for the service it was inevitable that there would be job losses.

"The people working in children's centres are caring, dedicated and highly skilled; families across Norfolk will be hit hard by any reduction in support."

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