On the 7th July, West Sussex County Council issued committee papers and a press release relating to the final opportunity to scrutinize their slightly revised proposals to close (now) 31 of the County’s 43 Children and Family (Sure Start) Centers.
As part of its response to the disastrous 2019 Ofsted report on the County’s Children’s Services, Conservatives at West Sussex published proposals in January to close 32 of their 43 Centers and all 12 ‘Find It Out’ young people’s drop-in advice centers. Following a 10-week public consultation, which closed on 17 May, with which 1,948 residents engaged, they have amended their proposals to closing 31 centers and replacing the ‘Find It Out’ offer with an appointments-based service.
County Councillors Dawn Smith and Alison Cornell sit on the Scrutiny Committee at County and are keen to encourage people to register their concern by watching the meetings live. The final scrutiny (20 July – 10.30 – Virtual) and Cabinet, when West Sussex Conservatives will make the final decision on this (27 July – 10.30 – County Hall).
Cllr. Alison Cornell: “There is nothing in these new proposals to give me any comfort whatever. In my own division, closing Langley Green’s Sure Start Center will mean 68,008 opportunities to provide support and guidance to young families will be lost. Across the County, that figure rises to well over 460,000 lost opportunities.
“Any number of reports into early years provision – including the LSE’s, “Big Change Starts Small” recently launched by the Duchess of Cambridge which found that lack of early years support costs the UK an astonishing £16 billion a year – advocate strongly for the polar opposite of these proposals. The current universal early years offer not only helps prevent children and families getting into difficulty, it reduces the need for much more complex (and expensive) interventions later on. Effectively these proposals will result in more children becoming vulnerable for want of this early opportuunity. That’s not good for people and it’s not a good use of our council tax. I cannot support that.”
Cllr. Dawn Smith: “This was the number one issue on the doorstep in Worthing during the May elections. So many people are utterly horrified with these proposals, and I can see no evidence that they have been listened to in this revised offer.
“These centers are often the very hub of the communities they serve. Young families rely on them for support, advice and social interaction. Well over 70% of people who responded to the consultation opposed these closures and wanted their centers saved. Quite how saving just one more center equates to listening, I really don’t know.
“I hope lots of people will show their concern by logging on to follow the meeting at 10.30 on 20 July.”
YOU ARE ENCOURAGED TO LOG IN TO THIS MEETING TO DEMONSTRATE TO THE UNHEARING TORY MEMBERS OF WEST SUSSEX COUNTY COUNCIL THAT WHAT THEY ARE DOING IS BEING WATCHED.
|Link to live Webcasts – Scrutiny Committee (20.7.21 – 10.30) and Cabinet (27.7.21 – 10.30): http://www.westsussex.public-i.tv/core/portal/home
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