When you first have a baby you are handed a package of gumph. If it’s your first baby you assume that the package holds a manual for your new bundle, a lifetime warranty and a receipt….just in case. Unfortunately not.
What it does contain is plethora of randomness;
- Samples of products that may or may not bear any relevance on the new journey you are about to undertake. (a pot of Sudocrem that you can almost fit one finger in, a pouch of fabric softener that will not tear open for love nor money so it spends it’s days loitering near the machine dreaming of the day it’s moment to shine will arrive, a one dose tube of liquid iron supplement which is the equivalent of putting a verruca plaster on a gun shot wound).
- A booklet of postnatal exercises. God only knows why you’re suddenly supposed to become a yoga expert simply because you’ve given birth.
- The application pack for Child Benefit. Do not panic, if you accidently use it to mop up after you try to get the better of your fabric softener sample, you can do the whole thing online.
and acting as protective packaging for all above treasure will be many, many, many pieces of paper that will keep you entertained during night feeds (or you could read to the baby to encourage sleep).
One of those pieces of paper will be a leaflet about postnatal depression and the importance of socialisation for you and your new baby. There will probably be details of your local Children’s Centre (usually Sure Start). These were the creation of Tessa Jowell under Tony Blair’s Labour government 20 years ago with the view to “giving children the best possible start in life” through improvement of childcare, early education, health and family support, with an emphasis on outreach and community development.
Perfect, you think, somewhere I can take my baby and meet new people and gather advice and generally feel a part of my community.
Then you see headlines such as this:
Family services at risk as thousands of children’s centres face budget cuts
And sadly, it looks like the budget cuts and spending caps are more and more prevalent and affecting more and more Children’s Centres.
The absurdity of these cuts is shown in the figures. In 2011 a survey was undertaken that showed that 1.05 million families were actively using their local centre’s facilities which was an increase of 50,000 on the previous year.
That is a huge number, and it represents an enormous amount of new parent’s seeking guidance or young mum’s reaching out for support or those suffering with PND having somewhere safe to visit.
It seems that the problem began with the forming of the coalition government. They allegedly removed the ringfenced funding that was protecting the running of the vital services giving local authorities the power to open consultation regarding the closures which many chose to do.
As a result to these changes, funding was slashed from £1.2bn to £0.6bn and at latest count 508 centres have closed completely.
The problem is that a lot of these closures are in areas where their presence was most needed. Areas of deprivation and areas with a high number of disadvantaged children. Areas where they really could make a difference through support and education.
The centre’s which have been fortunate enough to remain open have still been hit with budget cuts meaning the services they can offer are restricted and free services are not viable.
It is this last point that has prompted me to use this blog as a platform to inform people of these devastating cuts. People who may not be familiar with these Children’s Centres and what they actually do, may not understand the need for a place that allows any parent or carer of any social background, of any economic class, with no discrimination to come together to become better parents.
My local Children’s Centre is experiencing these exact problems and it has affected myself and The Monkeys first hand. We have been attending a music group weekly since Noodle was a baby (so around 6 years), the group is run by a lady with years of experience who has her own business as an early years music group leader. She was paid by the Children’s Centre to run these weekly groups, allowing parents to spend this important, quality interaction time with their children. The major advantage of this group is that there is no ‘clique’ aspect that can be experienced at some toddler group settings, as it is focussed on you and your child. Support and friendships are the positive side effect that happens when you spend time enjoying yourself in a comfortable situation.
As someone who struggles with social interaction, that one hour per week was a godsend to me. It was a regular time to leave the house and be carefree with whichever Monkey I had with me and I gained many friendships from that repeated event that became part of our lives (I think we are actually part of the furniture now!)
The Children’s Centre announces that it can no longer fund the music sessions. The choices are to start charging parents to attend or call it a day. This goes completely against the ‘all inclusive’ policy that was set at right at the beginning. It means that if you can’t afford it then you can’t attend.
The lady who runs our music group, Lorna Berry of Fledgeling Music, refused to accept this new policy. There is an awful lot of research showing the importance of music and sound in early years education and the impact that it can have on a child’s socialisation and speech and language. This, and seeing the effects the groups have first hand encouraged her to keep going despite there being no funding. This means she was working for free and personally funding the hire of halls to allow her to continue contributing this imperative work to the community.
In this day and economic climate this is not something that can continue full time, and because of this a group of parents who find these music groups invaluable have come together and formed a company which are working tirelessly to raise both funds and awareness to ensure that people can continue benefitting from this service.
Sometimes it’s down to the normal person to take charge and make a stand. One voice is sometimes enough and if it’s loud enough others will also step forward. Take note of this group of people who are working so hard to give others the opportunity to experience what they have.
They say it takes a village to raise a child and they (whoever they are) have a point. Come together and form a network. If it benefits one person then it was worthwhile.
If you would like to find out more about these amazing people then please visit https://www.facebook.com/MusicForFamiliesHoltBriston/ or if have been encouraged to want to make a difference then there is https://www.gofundme.com/musicforfamilies.
If these cuts which look set to continue have also affected you then please get in touch as this is something I would like to pursue public interest in.
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