On 7 July, West Sussex County Council issued the committee papers and a press release relating to the final opportunity for scrutiny of their slightly revised proposals to close (now) 31 of the County’s 43 Children and Family or Sure Start Centers.
As part of its response to a disastrous 2019 Ofsted report on the County’s Children’s Services, Tories at West Sussex published their proposals in January this year. They proposed to close 32 of the 43 Centers and all 12 ‘Find It Out’ young people’s drop-in advice centers. For Crawley, that means the loss of centers in;
- Langley Green
- Pound Hill & Maidenbower
Langley Green is the most used of all the centers earmarked for closure. The footfall figures from 2019 (before the Covid related closures) show that 6,787 families/children received 68,008 opportunities for advice and support.
The figure across the town shows that, if all these centers are closed, 16,365 families/children will miss out on 112,929 sessions. How can that possibly be a good thing as so many families are struggling post covid? Cllr Alison Cornell
During a 10-week public consultation, which closed on 17 May, 1,948 residents engaged. Over 75% opposed or strongly opposed the proposals with over 70% supporting or strongly supporting the retention of all centers. Many individuals, professionals and over 300 children, from across the county took the time to leave often detailed comments.
In response, Conservatives at County amended their proposals by reducing the number of closures to 31 instead of 32 centers and replacing the ‘Find It Out’ offer to young people with an appointments-based service.
As a member of the Children and Young People’s Services Scrutiny Committee I am keen to encourage people now to register their interest or concern by logging on and watching what happens next. The meetings will be webcast live at the following link: http://www.westsussex.public-i.tv/core/portal/home
The final scrutiny Committee will be on 20 July – 10.30 and the Cabinet, when West Sussex Conservatives will make their final decision will be on 27 July at 10.30.
As things stand, there is nothing in these new proposals to give me any comfort whatever, and I am concerned the evidence shows clearly that removing this universally available support will result in higher costs and (much more importantly) more families and children getting into real difficulty.
The Duchess of Cambridge recently launched the LSE report “Big Change Starts Small” (link below) which found that lack of early years support costs the UK an astonishing £16 billion a year. Good early years support not only helps prevent children and families getting into difficulty, it also reduces the need for much more complex (and expensive) interventions later. Effectively these proposals will result in more children becoming vulnerable for want of this early opportunity.
That’s not good for people and it’s not a good use of our council tax. I cannot support that because once these centers are closed there will never be enough money to re-open them. When they are gone, they will be gone forever.
Link to LSE’s ‘Big Change Starts Small’: https://www.lse.ac.uk/News/Latest-news-from-LSE/2021/f-June-21/Lack-of-early-years-support-costs-England-over-16-billion-per-year