Former county councillor concerned about plans to close family centres in West Sussex
A former Tory county councillor for Burgess Hill East has spoken out against plans to close most children and family centres in West Sussex.
Anne Jones, who has a long background in children’s services, is concerned about the impact of proposals that could see only 12 of the 43 centres kept in West Sussex County Council’s redesign of its Early Help offering.
She is worried many Mid Sussex families, especially in Burgess Hill, will be deprived of support if the only nearby centres are in Haywards Heath, Crawley and Horsham.
Anne said plans to offer targeted support ‘looked great on the surface’ but asked: “How do they measure who is vulnerable?”
Issues like domestic abuse and post-natal depression are ‘across the board’, she said, affecting affluent families who can be overlooked if only ‘vulnerable’ areas are targeted.
Anne is also worried that the pandemic has caused more needs, adding that more family centres would make accessing support easier.
She added that Burgess Hill is a growing area taking on thousands of new homes too.
“We are massive and we need to have the services,” she said.
The final decision will be made at a cabinet meeting on Tuesday (July 27) and Anne said her ideal outcome would be to keep the centres and ‘use them better’.
“I would open those centres to welcome older people and young families,” she said.
“Many young children do not have a grandmother or grandfather, and if they are having a crisis with mum or dad who are struggling, older people can be wonderful.”
She said she would also like to see a return to trained family therapists and highlighted the benefits of early investment in children’s needs.
“Just providing those really good services during their early years builds up their resilience for what comes later,” said Anne.