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'Oliver Twist' claim over £250k pot after children's centres close

PUBLISHED: 12:43 05 November 2019 | UPDATED: 12:43 05 November 2019

The protest at County Hall against the closure of the children's centres. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

The protest at County Hall against the closure of the children's centres. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Archant

A £250,000 pot created after the closure of Norfolk children's centres to help community groups which support young children and parents has been dubbed as an 'Oliver Twist' approach.

John Fisher, cabinet member for childrens services at Norfolk County Council. Pic: Norfolk Conservatives.John Fisher, cabinet member for childrens services at Norfolk County Council. Pic: Norfolk Conservatives.

Norfolk County Council closed 38 of its 53 children's centres as it switched to a new model of providing.

It has seen the council move away from using centres to directly provide services, through a new Early Childhood and Family Service for children aged up to five.

Fifteen centres have survived as bases for Norfolk's Early Childhood and Family Service, run by Action For Children.

But the council has agreed leases for a number of other centres to be used for other purposes - and has created a £250,000 pot as a community development fund to support other groups.

Labour's Mike Smith-Clare. Pic: Labour Party.Labour's Mike Smith-Clare. Pic: Labour Party.

It will see grants of up to £2,500 to projects that will support children aged up to five to achieve their developmental milestones and ensure children and their parents or carers are not isolated.

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The council says groups might include music, creative, arts or physical play to encourage parent and carers to play alongside their child.

John Fisher, cabinet member for children's services at Norfolk County Council, said: "We need to support those who dedicate their time, effort and passion into putting on groups and activities for our youngest residents and their parents and carers.

Ed Maxfield, leader of the Liberal Democrat group at County Hall. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYEd Maxfield, leader of the Liberal Democrat group at County Hall. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

"This funding will equip the right people with the resources they need to either continue the good work they are already doing or assist them in setting up something new."

However, Ed Maxfield, leader of the Liberal Democrat group at County Hall, said: "The Conservative Council's approach is to make huge cuts in services for vulnerable people, replace them with a much smaller service that places a heavier financial burden on those families that are already struggling to make ends meet.

"It's an Oliver Twist approach to vital services making families beg for more."

And Labour's Mike Smith-Clare said: "With the huge demand and need for support this fund is woefully inadequate.

"Yet another example of the smiling assassins proclaiming a sow's ear to be a silk purse."

Deadline for the first applications is November 20, via www.norfolk.gov.uk/earlychildhoodfunding

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