NSPCC lifeline faces closure

A lifeline for hundreds of vulnerable children and families in Norfolk could be axed in a nationwide round of NSPCC support centre closures.The charity's only base in the county after its Gorleston branch closed a few years ago has been earmarked for the chop in a money-saving exercise.

A lifeline for hundreds of vulnerable children and families in Norfolk could be axed in a nationwide round of NSPCC support centre closures.

The charity's only base in the county after its Gorleston branch closed a few years ago has been earmarked for the chop in a money-saving exercise.

Phil Burton, chairman of the East Norfolk branch of the NSPCC and a former child protection investigator with Norfolk police, said the charity's Norfolk Family Support Team based in Norwich was needed now more than ever.

Its closure would mean that the nearest centre to needy Norfolk children and families would be in Ipswich, which deals with investigating protection situations rather than giving the support offered by the county's service.

Mr Burton said: “The charity has got to make cutbacks and save £1m nationally and the decision has been made that the Norwich office where all the work is done with children and families in Norfolk will shut.

“If it closes people can get advice nationally but not the support because no-one will be here. Young people and the community of Norfolk will suffer when all the support given previously is not there.

Most Read

“The centre works with children and families affected by domestic violence in particular and that is at the top of the national agenda never mind anything else.

“It will be removing a piece of the support network and taking away resource workers who go out into the community and to schools and who come from social work backgrounds or are specialised in that particular area.

“Vulnerable children and families will suffer with no-one to back them up. I have no idea what will happen to them if the project closes, everyone else is working to full capacity, otherwise we would not need to pick it up in the first place.”

The decision over the future of the service, at Arthur Brett House on Hellesdon Park Road, will now go to consultation until October 31 but Mr Burton said its head, Kay Warbrick, expected it to close at the end of January.

The centre offers essential free support and advice to young people and their carers on child protection as well as issues like bullying, substance abuse, depression, stress and problems at school.

It specialises in domestic abuse issues and is run by an NSPCC Children's Service Practitioner.

The revelation comes hot on the heels of the charity's new Child's Voice appeal which is asking for members of the public to raise £50m in addition to government funding of £30m.

Mr Burton said that the Norfolk branch of the NSPCC raised £80,000 to £90,000 a year and that staff and volunteers were devastated at the news but did not blame the charity for the current situation.

And he appealed to members of the public who donated to the NSPCC to continue to do so.

“The NSPCC nationally does a fantastic job, we just want to ask them to see the need for a centre in Norfolk and it is needed now more than ever with issues like the ones we deal with on the rise.”

A closed meeting is set to take place at the George Hotel on Newmarket Road in Norwich on Friday for those involved with the centre to discuss how it might be saved.

A spokesman for the NSPCC said: “The NSPCC is in a solid financial position but like all businesses and charities, in the current economic downturn, we are reviewing our activities and this may result in some redundancies and streamlining of our activities.

“A decision to go ahead with a proposal to close the Norfolk team has not yet been made. Consultation is taking place, including with external partners and we shall be communicating the decision when it has been made.”