I recently had the pleasure of visiting the superb Poulton Children’s Centre. We had a jam-packed morning listening to parents, professionals and dedicated staff across public, private and voluntary sectors ensuring that every child matters. Belying the name, the centre supports parents across our district, from before children are born right through until that difficult transition when they leave primary school and head off to big school. A hive of organised activity, pre-natal classes, baby massage and communications, parenting support including links to educational and employment opportunities from Home Start, all sit alongside the delivery of the excellent Lion’s Quest programme which works with children as they leave primary school.
However I was deeply moved by the resilience and hopefulness of the parents who run a volunteer group called the New Beginning Group. This group is run by volunteers for victims of domestic violence from HomeStart on Morecambe Street in Morecambe and has a drop in on Wednesday from 9.30am until 11.30am. Over a cuppa and cake, victims of domestic violence can get support in a safe environment and children are most welcome. The mothers who set up this group are themselves survivors of domestic violence yet have demonstrated that with the right support, one can rebuild their life and give back. Listening to Sarah, Gail and Michelle I thought about how when we have such hidden violence in our communities and stay silent the only winners are the abusers. These brave parents have realised this and vowed to help other people in similar circumstances. With two women a week still being killed through domestic violence, they are offering a possible lifeline right in the heart of our communities, all for free.
The leadership shown by Fred Atwater who runs the centre is second to none and I would urge you to visit if you can. In my twenty-plus years of working with communities, one constant feedback from parents about such centres is "This place has been a lifeline for me and my family." Poulton Children’s Centre demonstrates in numerous ways why we need to retain and invest in these havens in our communities, for our communities.