Posted: 26 August 2014

Centre of attention: Your donations help improve our ability to support children

Every penny raised helps us make a vital difference to children who need it. To find out where some of the donated money goes, we visited Houghton Regis Children’s Centre

Children are at the heart of everything we do. With the donations we receive, we help disadvantaged children – and their parents or carers – to lead happier lives. One important way we do this is through our children’s centresOur centres focus on the needs of children under five. They’re free to attend, and are regarded as a lifeline in the communities they serve.

The centre is vital in Houghton Regis

One such centre is the Houghton Regis Children’s Centre in Bedfordshire, which also incorporates Tithe Farm and Parkside Neighbourhood centres. Among the family services on offer are support groups for new mums, a stayand- play session called ‘Little Explorers’ and advice about getting into work.

For the town of Houghton Regis, the centre is vital – and a lot of that’s down to dedicated professionals like Sue Jones, a Sustainable Families Co-ordinator, and Elaine Burgess, a Senior Family Worker. Thanks to a brilliant team of volunteers, including parents, they are able to support a range of vulnerable families in need.

Making that difference to families is so rewarding,’ explains Elaine. ‘My passion is working with the team to provide structured family groups that are non-judgmental and relaxing. Friendships can be formed through groups like Baby Massage or Baby Sign.’

It’s this idea of building on parents’ confidence that defines Parent Puzzle, a 10-week programme at the centre that encourages parents to discuss strategies for looking after their children.

‘Parent Puzzle opened my eyes to different things,’ says Claire Cove, who has been coming to the centre since the birth of her eldest son, who is now 15. She’s also brought her other boys, aged 10 and four, and her partner’s son, Kyle.

‘The things we covered helped me to nurture my boys and deal with them in different ways,’ Claire continues. ‘I often feel like I’m stuck at home, so it’s nice to get out and make new friends.’

‘Peer learning is one of the positives of Parent Puzzle,’ explains Sue. ‘But we’re also there to lead and initiate discussions. We strongly believe that if you can’t look after yourself, you can’t look after anybody else, and it’s amazing to see parents progress. In week one, everyone’s shy, but by week four they feel 10 feet tall.’

Giving children and parents happiness, community

And, by the end of the programme, most mums are sad to leave. Louise Cottingham-Hill, a local mum who has used the centre with all three of her children (Callum, nine, Isabel, seven, and Abigail, four), couldn’t agree more. ‘I’ve benefited from advice about how to deal with different situations,’ she says. ‘And they have a good crèche, so we know the kids are well looked after while we’re busy.’

‘I found Parent Puzzle really useful, especially with my older children,’ adds mother Jenny Blair. ‘I’ve recommended it to everyone I know. Some of it has really changed our home life, and I feel more confident to be a parent.’

‘I don’t know what we’d do if the centre wasn’t here,’ says Claire. ‘The children absolutely love it, and their happiness makes me happy.’

‘I like to think we’re a big part of this community,’ sums up Elaine. ‘Our work makes a real difference to their lives.’

How you can donate

Thanks to your support, our children’s centres are able to look after children across England. To help us reach even more children, please consider donating today.

By Matt Summers-Sparks - Digital team