Childen’s centres in Forest Heath told to reach out to the vulnerable

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News from the Bury Free Press
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As £1.5 million in funding is slashed from children’s centres county-wide, Ofsted has said those in Forest Heath must reach more vulnerable families.

An inspection of Suffolk County Council-run children’s centres The Lark in Mildenhall, Brandon Children’s Centre and Foley House in Newmarket judged them to require improvement.

The watchdog’s report states: “Although the number of families accessing services has increased significantly since April 2013, the number of teenage mothers, lone, workless and families living in the most deprived areas, fathers and families who speak English as an additional language are not high enough.”

Alan Cadzow, assistant director– early help and specialist services at Suffolk County Council, said the number of families using children’s centres had increased and a board would now look to draw up an improvement plan based on Ofsted’s recommendations.

While calling for the centres to reach more people, Ofsted’s report recognised that staff give good support to those families most in need and made sure vulnerable children were well protected, when contact was made.

Nicola Miller, editor of Mumsnet Suffolk and Norfolk, said: “Children’s Centres are a vital service for all parents but especially for those parents needing that extra bit of support. Extending help to vulnerable people is one of the central tenets of a civilised society.”

In this year’s budget Suffolk County Council slashed £1.5 million from children’s centres. Mr Cadzow said that £1.2 million of these savings had been made without staffing cuts.

Ms Miller said: “Current policy at regional and national level, in health and social care especially, appears predicated upon short term cost saving measures. Unfortunately when it comes to the most vulnerable client groups, gains will be by definition, medium to long term.”