Before I had Scrip, I’d heard of Sure Start or Children’s Centres in passing – mostly with the tagline of ‘New Labour initiative’ – but other than vaguely thinking they were a good thing, I didn’t know much about them. Now I think they’re an essential part of British parenting.
Children’s Centres have personally helped me – I’ve been to breastfeeding drop in sessions in a couple of different ones in my borough, which supported me in a way that no website or doctor’s appointment could have – as well as new parenting sessions, which gave an extra level of reassurance when I needed it most. I’ve also been to play sessions and many of my friends have taken advantage of baby yoga and baby massage.
In a world of fluffy, expensive, private Gymboree-type classes, Children’s Centres offer all sorts of simple sessions for free – from an introduction to nutrition to reading, speech and stay and play.
As well as providing toys and facilities in a clean, safe environment, the staff have been so approachable and positive. I’ve been so grateful for their words of advice and support. And that’s from someone who’s lucky enough to have a supportive husband and caring family around them. For people not quite so lucky, these Centres can be a vital lifeline.
I’ve also been to a couple in Hackney where I was also welcomed with open arms. The organisers made me a nice cup of coffee and after the babies and children had played for a while there was a break for fresh fruit, which was carefully prepared and provided for free. What a brilliant, simple thing.
A lot of Centres have had their funding cut but many have struggled on through – all I can say is that I, for one, am grateful. I think they do an amazing job; and if people could see how important they are to every new parent – but particularly to those that are most vulnerable – they’d be behind them every step of the way.