Yesterday the Local Government Association (LGA) claimed that Sure Start children’s centres in England and Wales are in a “fight for survival” as the amount of funding for them fell by 25% between 2014/15 and 2017/18. And despite the fact that the Sutton Trust has already previously estimated that between 2009 and 2017 more than 1000 centres may have closed, the LGA suggest it is “inevitable” that more centres will be forced to shut. We’ve written before about why children need children’s centres, but this week we are sharing someone else’s perspective. One parent, who wishes to remain anonymous, has written this piece below about their experiences of visiting their local children’s centre:
Since becoming a parent I’ve become a firm advocate of the power of Sure Start. Becoming a parent can be an isolating experience, as new mums and dads find that (a) their usual support networks are at work whilst they are at home with the new baby, and (b) surviving on maternity pay means every penny counts when it comes to finding activities and things to do with your child. The groups I’ve attended at my local children’s centre have all been free and have been great for meeting new people, finding out more about being a parent and learning about my child’s development. I’ve attended sessions on things like weaning my baby, helping them with good sleeping habits and learning how their brain develops. I’ve been able to build a group of friends who I now chat to every day. We share our babies’ progress, ask for advice when we aren’t sure what we are doing and check in with each other to make sure we are all doing okay. And we wouldn’t have that group support without the children’s centre bringing us together.
I find it sad that my child and I have missed out on Sure Start groups that used to be run in my local area; I know there used to be much more on offer. In the last two years the three centres that were closest to my house have closed. There are a couple of parent and child groups that I go to every week that used to be run by the children’s centres but were scrapped. Subsequently volunteers have taken over the running of them, and ask for a donation from parents just to cover the room hire and resources cost. I’m very grateful to the volunteers for stepping in – definitely evidence of the Big Society in practice.
I worry about what will happen if further cuts are made to local children’s centre provision. My child and I have benefited so much from the support they offer, as I know others have. If the LGA’s estimations are correct that more centres are set to close then I feel sorry for those yet to have children, who won’t be able to benefit from the help and guidance I’ve received from them.
Have you benefited from children’s centre services? In what ways have they helped you and your child?