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New-look children’s centres give greater support to families

Children’s centres across Waltham Forest will offer more services than ever before as part of a major project to help give the borough’s young people the best start in life.



Renamed Children and Family Centres, they will from 1 July start providing local families with children aged 0-18 access to enhanced early education services and Early Help services, which includes support with parenting, child health and welfare, family life, employability, community links and building life skills. And, from September this year, they will also begin to offer an increased range of health services.



Every Children and Family Centre will be linked with one of four neighbourhoods – Chingford, Walthamstow, Leyton and Leytonstone – with the aim that no family is further than a 20 minute walk from their nearest centre. Local charity The Lloyd Park Centre will manage the improved new service on behalf of Waltham Forest Council, as part of a new, three year contract.



“Not only are we retaining all of our children’s centres at a time when other local authority areas are seeing closures – we’re making them even better while also keeping services free or low-cost,” said Cllr Mark Rusling, the Council’s Cabinet Member for Children and Young People.



“Parents have told us first-hand how much they value our children’s centres and what we could do to make them even better, so their comments have helped to shape this new and improved offer.



“By introducing improved services focussing on early years’ development to prepare children for school, including new health-based services, we’re confident the centres will offer local families an even greater level of support than ever before.”



Pauline Thomas, Chief Executive of The Lloyd Park Centre, said: “Today’s announcement is an important one for us as a charity, but also for families across Waltham Forest. Over the last 35 years we have grown from a small playgroup into a parent-led charity that has great expertise in supporting local families and developing children to their best potential. Our mission is to build brighter futures for children and families in our local community, and our charity is shaped by those who use our services.



“I would like to thank the other organisations we work with who have helped us to provide outstanding services for our community, and I’m looking forward to working with new teams and organisations across Waltham Forest as part of this new contract.”



James Wragg, Chair of The Lloyd Park Centre, said: “We are delighted that we have been awarded the contract to run Children and Family Centre services across Waltham Forest, and we applaud the Council for continuing to support these critical services and keep children’s centres open when many face closure in other boroughs.



“We want to build on over thirty years’ experience of delivering services to local children and families to provide support which meets their needs.”



The new Children and Family Centre model, which is a partnership across health, Early Help and early education services for families with children aged 0-18, and up to 25 for families with a disabled child, will see a ‘hub’ building set up in each neighbourhood to allow staff from across the partnership to be co-located.



The centres will retain services for under 5s, such as play and health sessions. Early Help services will be available for those families that need additional support with parenting, child health and welfare, family life, and building life skills, which will include access to Jobcentre Plus and adult education opportunities.



Council Early Help staff will be located in the neighbourhood hubs so they can work closely with other professionals, parents and carers to help families get the support they need, when they need it.



Early education play sessions will be enhanced so parents can make clear links between activities their children have taken part in and their progress towards ‘school readiness’.



Children and Family Centres will have a new emphasis on health and wellbeing, and  residents can expect to see a broader range of activities starting up over the next year, including infant feeding cafes, baby massage, healthy eating and fussy eating workshops and support for parents on topics like sleep.



The local health visiting service will continue to be provided by North East London NHS Foundation Trust (NELFT), and will work increasingly closely as part of this model. More child health clinics than before will be available in Children and Family Centres, making them easier to access for parents.



To improve child development and wellbeing for children aged 0-5, there will also be new specialist healthy child services available, which will begin to roll out from September and be provided by HENRY, a national charity. These will have a particular focus on infant feeding from birth, helping mums to breastfeed where possible, but also supporting bottle feeding if that is the preference or where breast feeding doesn’t work out. On top of that, there will be help for healthy eating, oral health and speech and language development, so parents can access expert advice and support in their local Children and Family Centre.



The Lloyd Park Centre currently runs a children’s centre service from The Lloyd Park Centre, Higham Hill Children’s Centre and Chapel End Children’s Centre, reaching almost 4,000 children. Having won the three-year contract, this number will grow as the charity will be extending its reach to more than 20,000 local children.



The Lloyd Park Centre offers families services including daycare, breakfast and tea time clubs, family support, a baby bank and baby and toddler play sessions, including grow wild natural playspace and dad’s club.



For more information, visit www.walthamforest.gov.uk.

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