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Tuesday, 25 November 2014

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The kids are all right at centre for fun and games

Walk into Workington’s children’s centre and you sense immediately that the kids there are all right.

The place is certainly a hive of activity. Youngsters and parents bond over play.

Its range of services and sessions include Rhyme Time, which provides music and play for the under-fives; there’s something called Mini Movers, which provides music and movement for parents and children up to 18 months; and then there’s Bumps n Babes, a group for parents-to-be and those with children up to 18 months.

The Workington base, at the Minto Centre, was launched eight years ago initially to provide support services which would help children under the age of five to prepare them for school.

But the initiative has proved to be so successful that there are now three children’s centres in West Cumbria. Between 1,000 and 1,500 people are registered with them.

Run on behalf of Cumbria County Council, they have also recently had their remits changed so that they now cover the whole 0-19 age range.

That has meant broadening the activities and groups on offer; in Workington, for example, a new teen room is being created by young people to give them somewhere to spend time.

Action for Children runs the three centres.

As well as the Workington base, there’s the Derwent Valley Children’s Centre, which operates from St Herbert’s Primary School in Keswick and 2 The Dairy, South Street, Cockermouth. It covers the Cockermouth and Keswick district.

Meanwhile, the Distington centre is based at Derwent Vale Primary School in Great Clifton but covers the horseshoe of villages around Workington – Distington, Harrington, Seaton, Stainburn and Clifton.

The group held a series of open days last week to showcase its services and groups.

Stephanie Crosthwaite, manager of the centres, explained that the Workington base also targeted support such as Young Families 2-B, a session for young people who are soon to become parents, courses to offer strategies for those struggling with parents and support groups, and short breaks services for families with a disabled child.

Similar services and groups are on offer at the other centres.

All three centres can also offer one-to-one help from support workers to help families tackle issues that range from behaviour problems and low school attendance to overcoming domestic violence.

Stephanie said: “It’s an opportunity to spent quality time together in a relaxed, warm and welcoming atmosphere, and there are lots of opportunities to engage in fun activities.”

The centres also host school holiday sessions, both on site and out in the community.

Most activities and services are free, although there is sometimes a small fee towards materials for courses.

Stephanie explained: “It is about encouraging children and young people out from behind their computers and things like that out into the community.”

The 21-strong staff team across the three centres are supported by a group of 30 volunteers, and they work with about 50 families on a one-to-one basis at any time.

Among the services that people can get access to in the coming weeks are a course called Triple P – Positive Parenting Programme, which will be run in Workington and Keswick next month, and a new programme called The Recovery Toolkit, which helps people to address the psychological distress of domestic violence.

Stephanie added: “I would encourage all parents to find out where their local children’s centre is, register and see what we have got on offer.

“It’s an opportunity to get to know people in your local community while having a good time.

“Children’s centres are for everyone, regardless of circumstances.”

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