When my two boys were younger we practically lived at the children’s centre in Lune Park, Lancaster.
Myself and Andrew moved to the area from Dorset and we knew nobody, and had no family living nearby.
Within days of moving, Andrew started work and my days were happily filled by looking after Stephen, who was five months old.
The children’s centre was, for me, a lifeline. I made friends, got help and information about caring for a baby and then toddler (much needed as a first time mum) and I could attend parenting classes and groups. I had fun, and so did Stephen.
When, at one year of age, Stephen started at a nursery housed in the centre I still attended groups and we accessed play sessions together.
However, it was when Tom came along and we then needed its services more than ever that I realised just how valuable the centre was.
I’ve said it before, but I will say it again: the children’s centre and its staff saved my life. Without them I dread to think where I would be today.
They helped me, they helped Tom and they helped my family. That’s why what this government is doing angers me so much. They are cutting vital services for those who need them the most, services for the disabled and the elderly. Children’s centres are being badly hit, with job cuts and loss of vital services.
Without them I know that Tom would not have received early intervention. Without them I would not have been given the services of a wonderful specialist outreach worker, Trisha Wilkinson, who became a friend to me and my family. Without them I would not have received a home portage service. Without them I would not have made friends through AOK and met the wonderful Lucy Ellis, who again gave me much needed help and support when I needed it most.
Without them I would have felt alone.
I worry for the parents who, like me, need services, help and support. If the vital services that children’s centres offer are cut, then who helps these parents?