Children's Centre closures

Children’s Centre closures

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.

Children's Centre closures
Our Patchwork Wall Hanging for the Children’s Centre made on a craft course

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.



13 thoughts on “Children’s Centre closures

  1. I think children’s centres are so important and it is such a shame that a lot of them are having to cut classes or even worse, face closure. I used mine so much when I had my son and would have been lost without the friends and support I had there. I have also used the one near us with my daughter, admittedly not as much but I would still miss it if it disappeared.

  2. I didn’t have a children’s centre when the boy was small, they built it when he was about 4, even so I used it till he started school. Its only been open a few years and already there is talk of closure, its awful as it is such a safe place for family’s to rest and get help. I hope yours is able to find a way to stay open. I know lots of mums who would be lost without it!

  3. Really sad if they are closing them as they are so important. We used ours a fair bit when Xavier was a baby although ours don’t offer much for toddlers/preschoolers. They are fab though and such a great support for new parents.

  4. I couldn’t make our meeting either although it was packed out. In Banbury there’s numerous children’s centres, the ones in town have HVs go along or who work out of there, so you can get your children weighed and ask questions, as well as asking the other mums.

    We used the baby cafe (even though we ended up FF) when N was young (along with our NCT group) and then the under 1’s stay and play sesson. They also do cooking sessions, first aid (both paid for), post natal exercise classes with creche, as well as toddler sessions including lunch for nominal fee. Sling library is also held at one of the others. Once he was one he was at nursery, but just knowing that once a week you had somewhere to go that you could look forward to was invaluable as well as having access to support staff and experts…I’ve needed to try and see my HV to assess tongue tie but there was no way she had room for over 4 weeks. So HV’s don’t have the time outside organising standard checks.

    All but 1 in town are expected to close. They’re also used as contact centres for broken families who need to meet in safe environments. what’s going to happen with them?

    Our local rural centre is beautiful and new, aligned to the primary school and I don’t know if that was closing. For that, they could probably get people to pay a bit more than the £1 a session as most of the users could probably afford a little more to help towards it.

    What surprised me about using them, is that even the old ones in town that are a bit down and out, not new and swanky, the people who use the baby groups are predominantly middle class mums, NCT members who’ll go back to work after the year. Yes, there were a few who wanted breastfeeding support so came as the only place to offer it, (and there was a young mums session held too) but generally even in the middle of town, the people who might have needed more support and education were unlikely to be the ones attending. It definitely will be sad to see them go and lose that resource.

  5. This is complete and utter madness! These places are lifelines to so many Mums. Thank you for linking to PoCoLo x

  6. I seem to recall when these were very first proposed, the idea was that they become self-sufficient and self financing. Those in the industry of childcare at the time did say this would never happen. This (becoming self financing) hasn’t happened and so they have become something that can be used to cut costs.
    I understand that they are important, and they have a place, they fulfill a vital role. I do think that they should be self financing and then they can’t be closed down.

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