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Fears as charity plans families centre

PUBLISHED: 10:04 13 October 2008 | UPDATED: 21:30 05 July 2010

A CHARITY has unveiled plans to open a new centre for struggling families in Lowestoft after experiencing high demand for an identical service in Norfolk.

A CHARITY has unveiled plans to open a new centre for struggling families in Lowestoft after experiencing high demand for an identical service in Norfolk.

The Break charity, which helps vulnerable children and adults, wants to convert a house in Corton Road into a family assessment centre, but has come up against considerable opposition from neighbours.

Waveney District Council's development control committee will discuss the proposals on Wednesday and planning officers have recommended Break be given the green light to open the new centre, which will mirror one operating in Sheringham.

But committee members will be told of objections from about 30 neighbours who fear the centre will play host to problem families, leading to an increase in anti-social behaviour and a reduction in property values.

Break's director of care Chris Hoddy said this was unlikely because the centre would play host to very young children and their families referred by the children's service department at Suffolk County Council.

Residents will often be single mothers who face having their babies taken away by social workers and are sent to the facility for assessment and support.

Mr Hoddy said: “Anybody who is having a care home put in their vicinity is going to be a bit concerned and I appreciate that view.

“The fact is we are trying to meet a need in terms of family assessment in East Anglia. A lot of the concerns have been on a false premise. This is not a project where there will be a lot of disruption to the community because it simply hasn't happened in Sheringham.”

Members of Waveney's planning committee made a site visit last month to the Sheringham centre where they were given a presentation on how residents are taught parenting skills and given advice on bringing up their children. The facility has been open for 13 years and boasts high occupancy rates.

The Lowestoft centre, which would be developed in partnership with the Flagship Housing Association, would host up to four families staying for about 12 weeks at any one time. About 20 new jobs would be created.

Mr Hoddy said: “Quite a few families stay together, but where someone can't look after their children, those children are removed and go into care.”

He added that that children staying at the centre would be very young with the very oldest likely to be about eight. Parents with known drug or alcohol problems would not be admitted.

Waveney District Council's development control committee will meet at Lowestoft Town Hall from 6pm on Wednesday.

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