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Children's centre plan for Halesworth

PUBLISHED: 16:02 24 July 2008 | UPDATED: 07:32 01 August 2010

FAMILIES in Halesworth look set to benefit from one of three new children's centres planned in Suffolk.

The centres, which would provide services like childcare, healthcare and career advice, would be aimed at families with children up to five years old.

FAMILIES in Halesworth look set to benefit from one of three new children's centres planned in Suffolk.

The centres, which would provide services like childcare, healthcare and career advice, would be aimed at families with children up to five years old.

The scheme is part of the government's “Every child matters” agenda and requires each local authority to create a certain number of children's centres by 2010 - Suffolk County Council's target is 48.

The Halesworth centre and others at Brandon and Eye are in the council's third wave of children's centres - 35 have already been opened across the county including sites in Beccles, Southwold and Lowestoft.

At a cabinet meeting on Tuesday, councillors approved which areas should host the final 13 centres, which in total will get £4.4m of funding from the government, and to begin the process of deciding exactly where they will be.

The preferred sites for a centre in Halesworth are the Edgar Sewter Primary School, on Norwich Road, and the middle school, on Harrison's Lane.

Patricia O'Brien, portfolio holder for children, schools and young people's services, said the centres would offer support to parents as they raise their children but would not do the job for them. She added: “Centres will be able to target support to families who are most vulnerable.”

The locations will not be confirmed until the autumn and the council hopes the centres will be open by December next year but Mrs O'Brien said they would offer help before that. She said: “It has been a successful feature of the children's centre programme in Suffolk that services will be on offer even before a building is completed. This enables children and families to receive maximum benefit from the resources available.”

Sheila Keenan, who manages three centres in Lowestoft, said they were an essential resource for parents when they need them. She said: “We get a lot of very positive feedback from parents and there's a lot of evidence to show we are making a difference. We can help them to get work or get over a crisis.”

Ms Keenan said her centres did not offer an instant solution but worked with families over a long time to help them with their problems. She added: “The important thing is that they don't have to come to us - it's their choice.”

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