04/01/2021 – Press Release - Labour Councillors lead the fight to stop the closure of 32 West Sussex Children and Family Centres
Labour councillors from across West Sussex have started a petition to call on Tory run West Sussex County Council to halt the planned sweeping cuts to its Early Help service and reverse the proposed closures of the Children’s and Family Centres and Find it Out advice centres across the county.
The Conservative leadership at West Sussex County Council are proposing the closure of 32 of the 43 “Sure Start” Children and Family Centres in the county. If agreed, the changes would also see all 12 of the Find It Out youth advice centres close as well. These cuts would remove £1.95m in total from the council’s budget.
However, the core purpose of Children and Family Centres is to improve outcomes for young children and their families, reduce inequalities between families in greatest need and their peers in child development and improve parenting skills and child and family health and life chances.
Local Labour councillors Catherine Arnold, Lee Cowen and Carl Walker have launched a countywide petition this week calling on the council to halt the proposed closure of 32 West Sussex Children and Family Centres. The petition has already gained over 1,000 signatures in under 24 hours, highlighting the strong public feeling against the proposed closures.
Labour councillors believe these centres are an essential part of many communities across the county and need to be protected from unnecessary cuts. This is especially the case when Covid poses so many physical, mental health and social isolation issues for so many vulnerable families.
Indeed, the severe reduction in the service will leave many towns and villages across West Sussex without physical provision, as well as risking the end of universal provision of vital support to families that would benefit from it. Areas that will entirely lose all their centres include Lancing and Sompting, Midhurst, Petworth, Selsey, Storrington, Billingshurst, East Grinstead and Burgess Hill.
Welcoming the petition, Labour Group Leader on West Sussex County Council Michael Jones added:
“The West Sussex Tory cuts keep on coming – now it’s the Sure Start children and family centres which have helped local families so much across the county.
It’s unthinkable to inflict these socially devastating cuts on our residents. So many people have benefitted from this support and it will take this county backwards to lose it.
The petitioners have the full support of Labour county councillors in fighting for these valuable frontline services and I am delighted this petition already has over a thousand signatures in less than one day. This just underlines the strength of feeling.”
Elaine Bolton, Chair of Mid Sussex Labour Party said:
"These callous and unnecessary cuts will hit Mid Sussex disproportionately, potentially leaving both Burgess Hill and East Grinstead without any provision at all. Children and Family Centres improve outcomes for young children and their families, reduce inequalities between families in greatest need and improve parenting skills, child and family health and life chances. They must be protected especially now when Covid poses so many physical, mental health and social isolation issues for so many vulnerable families."
Research shows that Children and Family Centres are essential to the wellbeing of many parents and their children. Specifically, children and family centres significantly impact the physical health of many families and have positive social impacts on communities, especially those living in disadvantage.
They have positive outcomes for many families identified as experiencing more complex problems and improve mental health outcomes for children and parents using the centres. Importantly, mothers whose families were registered at centres showed improved mental health compared to mothers at centres that had experienced budget cuts and were reducing services.
The petition can be signed at the county council’s petition webpage.