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Cautious optimism as Diss Children’s Centre potentially saved from closure

PUBLISHED: 12:47 15 January 2019 | UPDATED: 16:12 15 January 2019

Mary Le Grys, Lizzie Skulski and Gemma Edwards are three Diss mums relieved at new proposals to keep Diss Children's Centre open. PHOTO: Sophie Smith

Mary Le Grys, Lizzie Skulski and Gemma Edwards are three Diss mums relieved at new proposals to keep Diss Children's Centre open. PHOTO: Sophie Smith

Archant

There have been mixed emotions across Norfolk as amended proposals to children centre cuts would see the Diss centre saved and Attleborough condemned.

Parents and children take part in a Musical Keys session at Diss children's centre. Picture: Bethany WhymarkParents and children take part in a Musical Keys session at Diss children's centre. Picture: Bethany Whymark

Diss Children’s Centre is one of eight to be potentially saved after a public consultation saw 1,600 people respond, while Attleborough’s centre is now likely to shut. Long Stratton’s centre remains on the retained list, and Wymondham and Harleston’s are still due to close.

Attleborough Mayor Vera Dale, who also works at the Pavilion Pre-School Nursery on Thieves Lane in Attleborough said people without access to cars would be hit hardest by the proposed closure.

She said: “The impact of closing the centre would be that children will no longer be benefitting from the expertise and specialist activities in place there.

“Although others in the area might remain open that doesn’t help people without transport provisions and will make things very difficult for those families.”

District councillor and former Diss Mayor Keith Kiddie says he is 'cautiously optimistic' about the future of Diss Children's Centre. Picture: Sonya DuncanDistrict councillor and former Diss Mayor Keith Kiddie says he is 'cautiously optimistic' about the future of Diss Children's Centre. Picture: Sonya Duncan

Conservative county councillor Keith Kiddie, who invited Stuart Dark, chairman of the council’s children’s services committee, to Diss Children’s Centre in November, said he was “cautiously optimistic” that it would continue.

He said: “I am delighted that we have been kept on the list to be retained. Councillor Dark sat in the children’s centre with all the representatives, including the head of the infants school and told us ‘I’m hear to listen’. At the end he said ‘thank you, I’m now very clear about what you have got here’.

“In Diss clearly we have a very big need for children’s services in whatever way they are delivered but it also so happens that the centre is relatively new, is in a perfect location next to the infant school, and it is well used. These things stack up to make it worthy of keeping.”

Mr Kiddie added: “At the end of the day if we are going to spend the best part of £6m on a children’s service we want £6m of result from it.

“I don’t think we are getting true value for money from the £10m that is going in at the moment. That’s not anyone’s fault it is just the way it has been constructed because there are some places where the buildings cost more to run than the service which is clearly not what we want.”

The move to keep Diss Children’s Centre has been largely welcomed by parents in the town.

Mary Le Grys, 40, a Palgrave mum-of-three said: “I attended the children’s centre when it first opened and the amount of cuts has been drastic. The amount of help they have given to mums and parents - to have it almost taken away is quite scary.”

Fellow mum-of-three Lizzie Skulski, 34, of Viscount Close, said: “The new proposals are better than they were but obviously there are still a lot being closed.

“When we fist moved to Diss I didn’t know anyone and someone actually came and picked me up and took me to the centre so I knew where it was. I find the services are very good. If it wasn’t there I think a lot of people would be a bit stuck.”

Mum-of-two Gemma Edwards, 30, of Sycamore Way, said: “We first used the centre when my eldest was three weeks old. It was invaluable really in getting me out of the house and meeting other parents.

“They have cut down classes a lot since I started using it. Obviously there are other baby groups you can go to but they tend to be ‘stay and play’ not specifically for newborns.

“It would have been a real shame if it were lost.”

Diss Children’s Centre supported ill parent through difficult time

New parents have been helped out by staff at Diss Children’s Centre in many different scenarios, including ill health.

Mum-of-three Laura Montgomerie, 35, of Victory Court, said: “I’m so thrilled and pleased that our children’s centre has been saved.

“I suffered with PND after my second child and the support I got from my local children’s centre was incredible.

“For this asset to be lost would have been devastating among mums and young families in the town.

“For some it is a lifeline. It’s sad that so many are closing across the county but I’m pleased that there are going to be a few more remaining that people can access.

“I just hope that other families and mums that need the help they provide don’t get lost along the way.”

PND stands for post natal depression, a type of depression that many parents experience after having a baby. It is a common problem, affecting more than one in every 10 women within a year of giving birth.

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