"Benefiting from Sure Start"
About: Mansfield & Ashfield Mansfield & Ashfield Mansfield NG21 0HJ
Posted by Cakes (as ),
I’m one of those educated middle-class mums who "don't need Sure Start" according to some politicians. Hummm.
I moved to Nottinghamshire just before the birth of my second child. Kirkby-in-Ashfield Sure Start centres provided a life-line, as I struggled with the important job of mothering 2 young children 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
I had previously been the main source of income in our family. So once I was a full time mum we had very little disposable income - certainly not enough to be able to go to commercial toddler groups or soft play centres. Sure Start playgroups provided a sanity-saving place for me to get out of the house, meet other mums, and re-charge emotionally to engage and play with my children. My children loved the activities. Mixing with other children also helped them prepare for starting nursery at three. ALL (yes all) the staff have been welcoming, kind, supportive, open-minded and a pleasure to get to know. Without Sure Start I would have been isolated and at severe risk of depression, with the well documented negative impact that would probably have had on my children and their development.
I have also worked as a volunteer for Sure Start, as a 'Positive Contribution Lead' and as a 'Breastfeeding Peer Supporter' and have been supported throughout by Jayne.
It was interesting to be a 'Positive Contribution Lead' (a parent-representative) at multi-agency meetings, and see how passionate the staff were about supporting families with widely varying backgrounds, whilst balancing the requirements of Ofsted, and other agencies (what I personally think of as 'ticking the boxes to get the funding. ') I saw first-hand how Tina set the tone for the positive, caring and practical culture at Kirkby Sure Start centres.
As a 'Peer Supporter' I helped to set up a new group in Kirkby with Nina and another volunteer. Other staff including Sam, Rachel, Louise and Ann have worked hard to support our 'BABES' group. New volunteers have joined us, giving the group a viable future. I also helped to set up a Facebook page, giving on-line breastfeeding support and information. I have found it very rewarding to be able to offer mums practical information and support as they learn to breastfeed their baby, and perhaps choose to continue to breastfeed their toddler. Increased breastfeeding rates could save the NHS £40 million p. a (Ref Unicef) and mother-to-mother support is widely recognised (eg by WHO) as an effective method of increasing breastfeeding rates.
I would encourage anyone considering volunteering to give it a try. Jayne's volunteer induction course was fun and interesting. As was the Peer Support Training Programme run by Theresa and Andy. At times volunteering has been challenging. I enjoyed feeling that I was making a positive contribution – making a difference to families. And I was able to have my children with me whilst I did it.
As my children reach school age, I am returning to paid work. Sure start has helped me to maintain the confidence to do this. They have also helped to make this important stage in my (and my children's) life more enjoyable. The hard-work of being a parent is rarely recognised or rewarded in our society. (Read the evidence based book “What mothers do especially when it looks like nothing” by Naomi Stadlen if you don’t know what I mean. ) Sure start is a much needed source of support for parents who want to give their child the best start in life.