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Protesters march against closures of children's centres in Suffolk

Children joined to march against the closures Photo: ITV Anglia

Protesters marched through the streets of Woodbridge in Suffolk this weekend to demonstrate against the county council's plans to close a third of its children's centres.

The council say that closing 13 of the county's 39 centres and reducing the hours of nine more will allow them to save money and target resources directly to people who need help.

But protesters argue that the centres are essential to building community and the wellbeing of parents and children.

Among those protesting was Shelly Darwin, who is a single mum who credits her local children's centre in Ipswich as getting her and her son Riaz through some tough times.

Shelly Darwin and her son, Riaz Credit: ITV Anglia
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"They were so helpful and they helped me through the whole of that time, when I'd first become a single Mum and Riaz was a baby. I credit them with so much. I credit them for spotting some of his communication difficulties, I credit them with helping me find a way through some financial difficulties and also just getting out of the house and making those friendships is so important."

– Shelly Darwin, protester
March through Woodbridge in the Suffolk Coastal constituency, set to lose four of it's six centres Credit: ITV Anglia

Kevin Yarrow was marching with his two grandchildren,

He argues the support the children's centres provide is key to creating an equal society, giving children skills they need to succeed.

"In Suffolk, social mobility is one of the lowest in the country and it's proven that support for families with children between birth and the ages of five makes a significant difference to that."

– Kevin Yarrow, protester

In a statement, a Suffolk County Council spokesman said: "A full and thorough public consultation will take place so everyone who is interested can learn more about proposals to develop an offer that meets the needs of our most vulnerable families, allows us to address sufficiency in Early Years provision and helps us support young people with Special Education Needs and Disabilities (SEND).”

County councillor Jack Abbott, the opposition spokesperson for children and education said this was a short term solution.

"I don't think it should be either/or. We've invested £45 million in 800 new specials needs places over the next five years, partly because we're borrowing at very low interest rates. Actually we need to do the same, invest early now and make long term commitments, we will be saving money down the line. We need to stop this short-termism, this race to the bottom and realise what the long term impact is both financially and socially for children and families in Suffolk."

– Cllr Jack Abbott, Labour