Do you use your Children’s Centre? Have you used it in the past? Do you know where it is? Has your Children’s Centre closed? In Oxfordshire, we are facing Children’s Centre closures across the board. Within the next 1-3 years the government propose to shut approximately 35 out of 44 Children’s Centres. The only ones left will be in ‘problem’ areas. My town, which currently has two wonderful Children’s Centres will lose both.
I cannot explain to you how angry and sad this makes me. I can understand that there are poorer areas in the county. We own our own home, I chose to stay at home with my little boy, doesn’t mean to say we are rolling in it – we most definitely ARE NOT. Does that mean that people like me and my son are less in need of the services a Children’s Centre provides? I think not.
When I came home with my son nearly 4 years ago, the Health Visitor gave me his Red Book and talked about all sorts of things including the local Children’s Centres. I have to be honest, I’d never heard of them before I was pregnant, I had no idea what they did. My eyes have been opened. In an Ante-Natal class, we only made one of two of the NHS one’s held at the Children Centre. Daddy P was late (the story of his life) picking me up from home and by the time we parked up outside we were really late, I was in floods of tears (I don’t do LATE), very pregnant, very hormonal, and couldn’t be persuaded to face a room full of strangers in that state. I’d had to go to a Midwife clinic there a couple of times – swollen ankles to be checked etc, a Stretch and Sweep (too much info?) that they couldn’t do as I hadn’t even started to dilate (the baby was not for moving!), My son’s first-week check-up.
Then we moved onto the serious business of an Early Days group – getting out of the house, dressed, with a baby, to meet a number of other Mums. Scary! In fact, half of my group was actually my NCT group, but still, it was a major thing for all of us to get there.
Weaning classes – invaluable advice for us novices. Weekly baby weigh-in sessions, followed by baby play sessions.
Then we moved on to the grown-up stuff – Stay and Play sessions for the Toddlers – too big for the baby groups now you know. Train tables, messy play, singing, reading, dressing up and climbing. We’ve spent so many happy times playing at the various Stay and Play sessions. Meeting new people, making new friends from all over the world.
If a new Mum asks me where to go I ALWAYS say – go to the Children’s Centre.
I was really struggling at one point, Daddy P is rarely around, so it would be me and my son 24/7, no break, no help. I was worn out, at the end of my tether. The Children’s Centre gave me a lifeline. They let him join the Take a Break Creche for 2 hours once a week for £1.00 a session (this included a snack!) It wasn’t easy, he screamed the place down the first few sessions, I walked away in tears. What sort of mother was I to do that to him? Why couldn’t I cope? Of course, he did settle, he did love it, he was meant to go for 6 weeks, they let him stay for 6 months. I cannot explain to you how much I owe them for that time. A few hours, a chance to drink a hot cup of tea. A chance to just sit. I ended up doing jobs, shopping and the like, but it gave me a bit of space. A bit of ‘me’ time. It also showed my son that he could be without me for a short time and enjoy himself. It made the transition to pre-school that little bit easier for both of us.
I’ve been on First Aid courses and craft courses there, all supported with a crèche facility.
I’m lucky, I got all of my exams, but I know they run lots of courses in English and Maths to help Mum’s, as well as nutritional and well-being courses. They also provide invaluable support to families with children with extra needs.
I know times are hard, sacrifices have to be made, the figures don’t stack up. I get that. But our children ARE our future. We owe it to them, to give all of them the best start in life, the best support. We owe it to Mum’s actually, to support them, especially in those first few years – it can be really tough, even the best of us need help sometimes.
There was a meeting last week about the closures, I ironically couldn’t go as I’d got no baby sitter for the evening. After the meeting the thoughts were that the closures are a foregone conclusion – this makes me so sad. So concerned that there are likely to be other Mum’s – younger or older, just like me, who one day will desperately need some help and support. Where will they go? Who will notice? Who will care? Please don’t say a Health Visitor, because other than the standard check-up appointments, I’ve not seen one of those since my son was a couple of weeks old.