Service provides ray of sunshine for families across Lancashire
Tuesday mornings in Penwortham are a ray of sunshine for parents of babies looking for advice, support and a chance to chat.
Lancashire County Council's Children and Family Wellbeing Service is running a Baby and You group, an eight-week course for parents of new-borns to 18-month-old toddlers at Kingsfold Neighbourhood Centre on Martinfield Road.
Penwortham mum Alice Ridout, 42, has been bringing her one-year-old daughter, Faith, since she was born.
She said: "It's a chance to see other parents and children, and gain friendships within the community. It gives you that chance to see that you're not on your own and other parents are experiencing some of the same issues.
"It's helped with things like sleeping, feeding issues, and it gives you that network to meet other parents in your area, because if you don't mix, and you're not doing other things, it's very easy to become inward looking, and it helps for the children, because they are starting to recognise each other."
Similarly, Penwortham mum Hayley Johnson, 32, brings her daughter, Ettie, who is seven months old, saying: "It's just meeting new people, getting out of the house and getting advice on feeding, transitioning to bottles, sleeping, all sorts really."
Yet this is just one cog in the wheel of a huge range of vital help for children, young people and families which is already proving a hit.
The Lancashire Children, Family and Wellbeing Service has 56 Neighbourhood Centres, including this one in South Ribble, across the County. The Service hosts groups and sessions for families and children from pre-pregnancy through to adolescence, helping those aged 0+ to 19 (25+ for young people with special educational needs and disabilities).
On offer are drop-in sessions, midwife and well-baby clinics, breast feeding support groups and child development checks.
Also on the menu are groups for parents to be, support courses for children with low confidence and for parents who struggle with low mood, while there's even baby massage, learning and development through play, 'chat, play, read' groups and sessions for children with physical learning, behavioural and emotional difficulties.
Opportunities for learning, development and support are also available, support for those who have experienced or witnessed domestic abuse or violence, parenting programmes focusing on children from two right up to 16, and a range of youth support for teens on education, equality, health and relationships and young people who are LGBT or questioning their sexuality or identity.
Lesley Brown, team manager based in South Ribble, says: "All our groups used to be really well attended pre Covid, and they offer a chance to learn at the group and a social side as well.
"People can form that relationship and carry on that even after the group has finished, with the idea that people will go through the different groups, starting with baby massage, then mini move and groove, and going through as their child develops.
"With Covid, word of mouth stopped, and there are two years' worth of children that have not been used to going out to groups. We have one called 'horizons,' for adults that may be feeling isolated or low and anyone can access the group work. The Children and Family Wellbeing Service is a huge team, offering things like family support workers, family time and group work.
"There's 'Baby and You' taking place today, then people can re-enroll, or go to the next group, and our service will support families and children through their development. It's been a challenge getting people back out to groups and getting that word of mouth out there since the pandemic, but we are here, we are free, so come and find out what groups are available."
Her enthusiasm is shared by Tammy Park, 35, of Lostock Hall, mum of five-month-old son Keir McNally. She said: "I have liked it so far. It's not for me – I have a support network, but it's important for my son to meet with babies of his own age.
"I want him to be more outgoing than I was, as my brother has Asperger's and my mum is autistic, so it's very much for him to make sure that he meets with children of his own age and is outgoing."
Lead group worker Sarah Harvey agrees, telling us: "It is rewarding when you watch them grow and learn new skills, and it's a supportive learning environment."
Lancashire County Councillor Cosima Towneley, Cabinet Member for Children and Families, said: "Early help for children, young people and families is really important on so many levels and the services offered by our Children & Family Wellbeing Service are many and varied from targeted youth work to community outreach programmes.
"We hope that by offering early intervention on a range of issues, we can offer the right help, in the right place and at the right time to make a difference and achieve positive outcomes for children, young people and families."
- The 'Baby and You' sessions run at the Kingsfold Neighbourhood Centre every Tuesday morning from 10am to 11.30am.
- To find out more about what's available at the Children and Family Wellbeing Service, and where your nearest neighbourhood centre is, click here or visit Find a children and family wellbeing service - Lancashire County Council
- You can also contact the service's Talk Zone Service - a confidential helpline, text message, email and online webchat service between 2 – 10pm - on 0800 511111 or by texting 07786 5111 11. To find out more about Talk Zone, click here or visit: lancashire.gov.uk/youthzone/get-in-touch
- To view a video of one of the sessions, use the following link - Kingsfold Neighbourhood Centre - YouTube