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Viewpoint from Rev Katy Dunn 23/11/2018

KATY DUNNRev Katy Dunn
Minister at Christchurch, Great Yarmouth

as published in the Yarmouth Mercury


You may have heard that 46 of the 53 Children’s Centres in Norfolk may be closed, including six in the Borough of Great Yarmouth.  Our Children’s Centres are used by 23,000 families across Norfolk, and the support, information and help that they give is vital and much needed.  The reason Norfolk County Council may shut the Centres is that since 2010 it has received less money year on year from central government due to the policy of austerity in resourcing our public finances
dove leftI thought about our local Children’s Centres being threatened with closure when I watched ‘The Great Austerity Debate’ which was performed at Christchurch Methodist/URC by the Menagerie Theatre Company on the 23rd October.  They have also put on performances watched by students and staff at East Norfolk College earlier in the month.  The first half of the evening was an hour long play showing the life of Megan Knowles, a single mum of two young boys. Her local Children’s Centre closes due to council cuts, and this makes her childcare very difficult.  She worked as a home care assistant, but her hours were cut, when the firm that employed her was pressured by the local Council to cut its costs.   Mistakes were made paying her the right amount of Universal Credit, and she is forced into borrowing at extortionate rates of interest.  She then loses her job and becomes desperate.  It was a bleak and hopeless play, as it vividly showed how little Megan could do to improve her own and her sons’ lives
Dove rightIn the second half, members of the audience were invited to suggest ways that the story could be changed for the better for Megan.  People shouted out ideas, and came out of their seats to become characters in the play, acting out their ideas and improvising different endings.  Megan was given a supportive older neighbour, who offered her a listening ear and practical help.  She was told about her nearest not-for-profit Credit Union, which makes  loans to people at much more affordable rates.  Other story lines were her keeping her job, or her talking about her many problems and getting more support from her sister
The last part of the evening was spent writing down what the audience thought would be the changes needed to stop Megan’s situation happening in the first place.  Some thoughts were keeping Children’s Centres open, reforming or scrapping Universal Credit, publicising Credit Unions, and abolishing zero hours contracts
There are many ‘Megans’ in Great Yarmouth.  We all need to support our local charities and groups (CAP, DIAL, Comeunity, Food Banks) who work so hard to help people who are struggling


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