Council stands by decision to cut funds for Exmouth Bosom Buddies group

PUBLISHED: 16:01 09 May 2018 | UPDATED: 13:56 12 May 2018

Save Exmouth Bosom Buddies member Amy Sweet handing over a petition to Cllr John Hart, leader of Devon County Council, in March, 2018. Picture by Adam Sweet.

Save Exmouth Bosom Buddies member Amy Sweet handing over a petition to Cllr John Hart, leader of Devon County Council, in March, 2018. Picture by Adam Sweet.

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Council funding will be cut to Exmouth's only breastfeeding support service despite more than 600 signatures and impassioned pleas calling to reverse the decision.

Members of the Save Exmouth Bosom Buddies campaign group were interviewed on camera by a regional television news team. Picture by Amy Martin.Members of the Save Exmouth Bosom Buddies campaign group were interviewed on camera by a regional television news team. Picture by Amy Martin.

Campaigners have been left ‘frustrated’ after the Devon County Council confirmed it was to withdraw funding from Exmouth’s only breastfeeding support service.

In March, the campaign group, Save Exmouth Bosom Buddies campaign, tried to persuade councillors a paid member of staff was vital for supporting the group.

This followed news Bosom Buddies was to become ‘community led’, from April 1, 2018.

The council said charity, Action for Children, was to take up the role of supporting the group to become ‘self-reliant’.

But despite taking a petition signed by more than 600 people to the council’s full cabinet meeting and attracting regional media attention, members have been left disappointed.

Campaigner Amy Martin told the Journal: “If the group needs to become community led still, (Action for Children) needs to start engaging and communicating with the community.

Members of the Save Exmouth Bosom Buddies campaign group were interviewed on camera by a regional television news team. Picture by Adam Sweet.Members of the Save Exmouth Bosom Buddies campaign group were interviewed on camera by a regional television news team. Picture by Adam Sweet.

“The group is so important, with new families going along all the time to seek help, to lose it would be a devastating loss for Exmouth.”

In his letter of response, cabinet member for children’s services, James McInnes, cited a reduction in budget as being key for the council in standing by its decision.

He wrote: “The budget for Devon’s Children’s Centre was 10.2 million, is now 6.2 million and will be 5.8 million in 2019.

“This is the same order of reduction seen in most Local Authorities across the country, and some have had to cut back much harder.”

Mr McInnes said he understood campaigners’ ‘anxieties’, but said they should be heartened by the fact that in other areas of the country similar groups had successfully become ‘peer-led’.

However, Ms Martin said the group was ‘still waiting’ for further news.

She said: “The council response also stated someone would contact us to discuss the future of the group, however weeks have now passed without hearing from them, which is very frustrating.”

A spokesman for Devon County Council said changes were being made to focus on ‘prevention and early help to support vulnerable children and their families’.

He said: “The Bosom Buddies group is still operating, unchanged, with a dedicated staff member from Action for Children.

“We won’t alter that arrangement in the short term, but in the longer term it’s not viable.”

The spokesman said the centre manager would be talking to members later in May about potential longer-term options for the group.

He added: “Whatever that outcome, the Children’s Centre staff will continue to offer dedicated support that will help train others so that they can support groups like Bosom Buddies.

“And they’ll still have access to our public health nursing team, which includes breastfeeding experts.”

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