Get involved: send your pictures, video, news and views by texting TANEWS to 80360, or email
A new start for Charlotte and her family.
Lots of mums and dads can feel overwhelmed when expecting a baby or looking after small children, so it’s good to know that help is at hand – and on your doorstep. Whether you’re looking for help with childcare, finding a job or a training course, health advice, breast feeding support, parenting advice or simply to meet other mums and dads in your area, Sure Start Children’s Centres have something to offer.
Many children’s centres also provide a range of additional services, such as Stay and Play groups, baby massage, rhyme time sessions and dads’ groups.
Children’s centres are available to all families with children aged under five and offer something for all members of the family including grandparents and registered carers.
Sure Start Children’s Centres can help you achieve more for you and your children as Charlotte Raby from Elland found out.
Charlotte 29, having a tough time raising her first daughter alone. With the help of her local Sure Start Children’s Centre she accessed help with childcare, made new friends and found work as an early years assistant practitioner.
When I fell pregnant with Dionne it was a nice surprise to find out I was expecting a baby, but I was unprepared for the changes I was about to face as a new mum. My college course in travel and tourism fell by the wayside, as did a lot of my friends, because I couldn’t go on nights out with them anymore.
Then, when Dionne was a year old, the health visitor told me about the new Elland Sure Start Children’s Centre that was opening in Calderdale.
I didn’t want to go at first, because I was worried about leaving Dionne with other people. In the end I decided to check it out. I’m so glad I did because the staff were really nice. I think they could tell I was nervous and they put me at ease.
They told me about a weekly parents drop-in at the children’s centre, where you leave your children at the crèche based at the children’s centre while you have a chill out and a chat with other mums and dads. I was shy at first. I thought they’d look down on me if I admitted that sometimes everything got on top of me and I wanted to cry. When I realised that many of them felt more or less the same at times, I started to open up. Before long me and Dionne were going to the children’s centre all the time and loving it.
I did a course in first aid and one in speech and language therapy and Dionne loved playing with all the other children instead of being stuck in the flat with just me. It really helped her develop good social skills and learn through play.
A year later I had my son Aaron. I also started volunteering at the children’s centre, setting up activities and preparing snacks for a childminders’ drop-in. I enjoyed it so much that the staff encouraged me to apply for a place at college to study for an NVQ Level 2 in childcare and I was given a placement at the Elland Children’s Centre.
I completed it and began working part-time. Now Dionne is seven, Aaron is five and they’re both doing well at school. I’m a full-time assistant practitioner at the children’s centre studying for a NVQ Level 3 that will enable me to move up the career ladder and hopefully become a fully-fledged early years practitioner.
I have prospects and real friends, including the mums and dads I met in those first few weeks. Life is going somewhere for me and my children. Without the Sure Start Children’s Centre, I would probably still be living on benefits and feeling desolate. Now I think a lot of people are surprised and proud of how things have turned out, not least of all me.
The Elland Children’s Centre in Calderdale, West Yorkshire, is a Sure Start Children’s Centre. There are now more than 3,100 children’s centres in England, providing access to services for over 2.4 million children under five and their families. Soon there will be at least 3,500 children’s centres – one for every community in England. They offer childcare, family support, health services, and employment and training support. To discover more visit www.direct.gov.uk/surestart or call 0800 2 346 346