Surrey County’s financial difficulties are putting at risk one of the most useful and effective community services in Weybridge – the Sure Start for All Children’s Centre, based in Churchfields.
Who needs help?
Surrey says that the closure of this, and other centres is necessary as it wishes to target those children “most in need”. Sadly, the way need is assessed is based almost wholly on national measures of disadvantage which ignores the very real needs and risks to well-being presented by more hidden needs such as unrecognised post-natal depression, domestic abuse and the simple isolation experienced by new mothers in commuter centres like Weybridge.
Why place matters
I spoke this week with the Leader of Weybridge Children’s Centre and came away convinced of the need for there to be high quality services available for children and families in most towns in Elmbridge. Daphne described to me the subtle ways of encouraging reluctant parents to attend the centre, and then access further services, which comes about thanks to informal encounters out and about in town. This is just not possible when parents have to travel to another town.
Weybridge’s centre is very special
Daphne and her deputy also filled me on on the range of innovative programmes they have introduced in Weybridge, which have been adopted by other centres and which have participants from other centres, including: a brilliant 7-week post-natal course; a paediatric First Aid course (only centre to run one) and an NHS facilitated 8-week Cognitive Behavioural Therapy based mental health course for mothers with post-natal depression.
What does OFSTED say?
In 2015 OFSTED visited the centre and found:
“One of the most notable features of their work is how successful the staff are in helping mothers and families become more capable. This goes well beyond mothers and fathers learning how to become better parents. It has a track record of helping parents to access education and progress to paid work.”
“The centre leader has done a sterling job of maintaining high-quality frontline services alongside inducting new staff and ensuring it is ‘business as usual’ for families during a period of significant change.”
“Her work is highly respected and valued by partners and parents alike.”
“The centre has been recognised as an ‘excellence in
practice partner’ by the health care provider for its work with parents at their child’s developmental check.”
“Targeted one-to-one support for children and families is effective and highly valued. Parents described staff to inspectors as ‘caring, sensitive, non-judgemental and patient’.”
Case files are of good quality and show the tangible impact that staff interventions have, particularly in empowering families to take control. Parents, including those from priority groups, build skills and confidence from attending specific programmes that help them to manage their children’s challenging behaviour positively.”
“The outreach work provided for the relatively high number of children and families who are in most need of support is extremely effective in enhancing their health, safety and well-being and
sustaining their involvement with the centre until their needs are met.”
“The centre provides access to high-quality services for most adults identified as needing help to improve their education and skills. Initial entry-level English courses are delivered by the college at the centre, where a crèche is provided by centre staff.”
Can we really let this disappear without a fight?