The chief executive of Action for Children, Sir Tony Hawkhead, joined 15th- birthday celebrations of the Vancouver Children’s Centre on William Booth Road, Lynn, on Thursday.
As well as meeting staff and volunteers, Sir Tony was introduced to Fairstead estate parents supported by the charity while their children were kept entertained by a magician, puppet show and face-painting.
Sir Tony said: “It was fantastic to have been able to join in the party and hear from some of the families our staff and volunteers have worked with since 2001.
“With local councils across England having to make difficult financial decisions regarding frontline services such as Vancouver, we’re pleased the county council has secured our funding so we can continue supporting families in Norfolk for the next two years.
“Children’s centre services can be a real lifeline to parents – somewhere to get that little bit of extra support, identify and work through any issues before they escalate as well as offer guidance on how to give children the best start in life.
“Our staff won’t judge you if you drop in looking for advice so I’d encourage parents across the county to find out more about how we can help.”
Sir Tony met mum Rachel Caulter, 39, from Fairstead, who first received support with her son Myles, now 19, when the Vancouver centre opened in 2001.
As well as completing various parenting and child development courses over the years, Rachel also volunteered at the centre, helping to run parent groups and organising Christmas and Halloween parties.
More recently, Rachel received support bringing up her second son Archie, two, by herself, following the death of partner and father of the family, David.
“It was really nice to meet Tony and talk to him and the Mayor about the amazing support I’ve had from the team at Vancouver”, said Rachel.
“I can’t thank the staff there enough; they’re brilliant and have been like an extended family to me, especially since Archie’s Dad died.”
Rachel added: “Parenting isn’t easy and sometimes it’s not been about the courses or more intensive support but just knowing you have someone there to talk to over a cup of tea when things get tough.”
Borough mayor David Whitby, said: “It was a pleasure to meet Sir Tony and the staff and families at Vancouver and to hear how our community service has developed since 2001. Here’s to another 15 years of continued success!”
Margaret Wilkinson, county councillor for Gaywood South, said: “The children’s centre services have expanded over the years and it is always encouraging to see them continue for the benefit of the children and parents.”
Run on behalf of Norfolk County Council, Action for Children’s Vancouver Children’s Centre was one of the flagship centres of the SureStart programme, launched in 2001. Named by a local parent after the town’s historic links to the Canadian city, the community service has supported more than 10,000 families, offering free ante-natal and post-natal groups, health clinics, drop-in activities and various courses. Its outreach team also visits parents in their homes, providing practical advice on issues such as housing, family budgeting, child development and parenting skills.
To find out how Action for Children can support your family, drop in to the centre at Fairstead Community Centre on William Booth Road, telephone 01553 762 805 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
As one mum said: “I can’t thank the staff there enough; they’re brilliant and have been like an extended family to me”