"Lack of Children Centre playgroups to suit my son’s age (almost 2 and a half years old)"

About: Mansfield Woodhouse Children's Centre

(as a parent/guardian),

I have been attending groups run by the Mansfield Woodhouse Children’s Centre (previously Surestart) since before my son was 6 months old. I have always been happy with the groups and at one point my son and I were attending 4 groups a week but now there seems to have been a decrease in the number of groups suitable for us. My son is almost 2 and a half years old.

I understand that the government makes cuts and issues targets, however, I feel that this has meant that not all groups of people are catered for. My son and I can now only attend 2 groups a week as the other groups seem to be for the 0-2 years age groups only. One of the groups was to be cancelled, but thankfully it has been saved – though it is only every now and then, not regular.

My son does not start nursery until January 2016, and although we are not entitled to the free 15 hrs for 2 year olds, we also cannot afford to pay for nursery. Therefore, these groups are the only regular contact my son gets with other children his age.

I have even tried getting details for other branches of the Children’s Centre but it seems to be the same story; not many options for my son’s age group and the ones he is the right age for are on when we are already at another group.

Another point I would like to raise is the cost of the courses available. When we first started attending groups I put my name down to do a First Aid course. I can’t remember the reason but the course was cancelled/full and I was to be put on the next course. I never heard anything further and did not attend a course.

Recently courses have begun costing £5. 50 a week unless you are on certain benefits. Again, we miss out on these as we just exceed the requirements and we also cannot afford to spend £5. 50 a week. Worse still, a First Aid course has now come up - £5. 50 per week (original on I was down for would have been free). I am aware another First Aid course is to be run but due to there not being a creche available, I cannot attend.

I would love to attend the courses as I enjoy learning new skills and having my son in the crèche would be great for him as he would be learning to be without me for a while and he currently does not have the opportunity for this.

I feel very frustrated that the focus seems to be on children up to 2 years old then it seems to taper off, as I feel that the development of my child at this age prior to nursery is just as important.

I do however want to end on a positive note, that being that the groups we do attend are excellent. The staff are very professional, friendly and helpful, enthusiastic and really take an interest in both child and parent/carer. The groups are well thought-out, flexible enough to take into account children’s needs at that point and good use of props! So thank you for all of this as it is invaluable to my son’s development – learning to share with other children, play together, listen to instructions, communicate with other children and adults, improving motor skills and such like.

The Tuesday singing group at the library is my son’s favourite, which we have been attending for well over a year now. Thinking back to when we started, he would run around playing and not pay much attention to the singing. Now he gets involved with the singing, actions and props, he knows the staff and although he doesn’t always sing at the group, he has started singing the songs at home.

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Responses

Response from Carol Pearce, Children's Centre Co-ordinator, Sure Start Children's Centres, County Health Partnerships

Thank you for raising these issues and I firstly would like to apologise for the delay in responding to you but I wanted to speak to members of the team to gain some background information.

At Mansfield Woodhouse Children's centre we aim to provide a wide range of services and attempt to cater for all age groups. In addition we also provide other services such as outreach support,volunteer opportunities and support for young parents. I do appreciate that this may not always seem enough and we are constantly reviewing our services to try and meet the demand wherever possible. Within Mansfield Woodhouse there are community groups that take place as well as groups at the Children's Centre, such as the Stay and Play and Tuneful Tots which you currently attend at the library. If you would like to more details please do contact us about these.

With regard to the adult learning fees I do understand that parents who do not meet the criteria for financial support struggle to meet the costs, especially when there is an additional charge for resources. We have repeatedly spoke about this with the learning providers but the fees are set by central government and they can't be changed.

We have started to provide more family learning which at present is free. We are delivering a Sewing/Upcycling course next month and have plans to deliver a story sacks course later in the year where there will be no charge for parents. Also we have provided our own family learning session at Peafield lane Stay and Play in December which was very popular and we charged a small fee of one pound to cover the cost of materials. We are repeating this again in March so please do contact the centre to find out more.

The first aid course that was due to be delivered in November 2014 at Peafield Lane was unfortunately cancelled due to the tutor not being available and I am sorry this message was not relayed to you. All the first aid courses, whether they have a qualification attached, do all have the 5.50 fee. If you would like copies of the policies that show how the fees are set then please do contact me and I will send them out for you.

If you would like to discuss any of the issues raised then I would be more than happy to meet up and discuss them with you. I do genuinely appreciate parents raising these kind of issues and concerns and take them seriously.

Lastly I would like to thank you for your comments regarding our Tuneful Tots session. It is one of our most popular sessions and Lynsay and Chris do a fantastic job engaging all the children and parents in the singing session. I am glad your son has benefited from this group and is now singing songs at home.

Carol Pearce

Children's Centre Co-ordinator

Mansfield Woodhouse

01623 666370

07947 662 176

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Update posted by caring parent (a parent/guardian)

Thank you for your response to my story.

I do understand that you have a lot of people's needs to try to cater for and only certain funds to do it with. I would like to say that on a whole I think the service your company provides is great; the staff are fantastic, nothing is too much trouble and they are helpful and patient.

Myself and my son not only enjoy the groups we attend but also find them helpful in many ways. As mentioned, my son's favourite is Tuneful Tots. We also already attend the Peafield Lane Family Learning Group on Wednesdays that you mentioned. I wish this could be made regular again, and permanent. This week's session on behaviour was very helpful, as my son is just at that age!

I do not mind paying the £1 cost for materials required on some of the weeks as I can afford this. It is the First Aid course I am disappointed to not be able to attend as there is no creche available at Peafield Lane.

I am very much interested in doing the Sewing/Upcycling course you mentioned.

It is a shame the cost of the other courses cannot been changed at all however I appreciate that you have already tried to solve this issue.

The First Aid course I mentioned in my story was not the one in November 2014. It was when my son and I first started to attend the Centre (Baby Massage) so he was less than 6 months old which will take it back to before March 2013. It was a while before the £5.50 courses began I believe.

I am so keen about all the groups and courses because they are not good to get us out of the house and socialise, but also help with so many development skills for my son and I am always keen to learn new skills. Thank you to you and your staff for this.

I understand what a difficult job you must have trying to juggle everything to keep as many people happy as possible. I am grateful for the opportunity to air my views and opinions and to receive a response. Although I do wish some bits could change, I also appreciate the job you all do and the support you give myself and other families.