Our local Caversham campaigner, Hilary Smart writes….
“Reading Borough Council is proposing to reduce the number of Children’s Centres in the area from 17 to 4. They intend to close the center at Emmer Green, and turn Caversham Children’s Center into a satellite center. This will mean that there is no longer a fully functioning children’s centre north of the river.
Being a parent to my five month old son is the best and hardest thing I have ever done. Our families are not local, so although they are very supportive we lack the proverbial village around us. This is hardly an uncommon situation here in Reading. Pregnancy is tough, and looking after a fragile newborn baby can be terrifying, exhausting and isolating. One in ten women will suffer from postnatal depression – often in silence.
The Caversham Children’s Centre has been a lifeline for me. On the physical health side, I had my pregnancy appointments there, and have been able to take my son regularly to the drop in clinic to check that his growth is fine and ask the health visiting team any questions that are worrying me.
On the emotional side, it has been wonderful to go to some of the stay and play sessions and meet other parents. The Children’s Centre offers a balanced programme throughout the week – when looking at other sessions around Caversham I have, for instance, been able to find five things we could go and do on a Tuesday but very little on a Thursday. It’s difficult to overstate how useful it is to have something each day that gets us out of the house!
Being able to talk to other parents about what bonkers things our babies are doing definitely helps. Some parents who were unlucky enough to suffer with mental health problems in the early days of parenthood say that it was the staff who run these sessions who were able to spot that they needed help and ensure they received it.
It’s unclear from the council’s written proposal what services will remain open at Caversham Children’s Center. I went to the consultation meeting at the centre on 20th February, and the one thing that was very clear was that the council don’t know either! They say it depends on what comes back from the consultation. I would urge anyone who has an opinion on the value of these services to fill in the online consultation, which closes on 29th March.”