I read recently in the St Helens Star that many Sure Start centres across St Helens are due to close, as the coalition government’s budget cuts have left the Council having to scrape together £28.1 million in savings this tax year. Seemingly, as kids can’t vote, Children Centres are a great place to start. But, as a new mother, tax payer and teacher, I agree that at least some of these centres should go.
In the run up to my daughter’s birth, I got quite excited thinking that myself and my husband might, for once, be entitled to some support, which as a married, home owning, employed woman, I have never before been eligible. If only I had chosen to swag school and become a teen mum, life could have been so different for me. Could’ve had the moon on a stick. The best shell suit in the shop. Hindsight, eh?
Anyway, since leaving hospital we have received two midwife visits (in the first ten days after birth) and two checkups (at two weeks and four weeks) from the Health Visitor. As standard. The usual. My daughter is well, I’m not suffering Post Natal Depression (because I said I’m not...) and I’m not a child protection threat, because when visited I was sober, dressed and lucid (and I held my baby correctly – a key factor apparently). So I must be doing something right. “Leave her to it,” Sure Start clearly thought. Clearly, we weren’t the roughest, loudest and most trying of customers.
I had visions of maternity leave being a blur of baby massage classes, support groups, tutorials and general social events which, when working, I have precious little time for. Despite my request for information regarding postnatal/baby classes available, no-one got back to me. I searched the internet but no joy, so I contacted my local Children’s Centre to try to find out more. I apparently should have received a Link Worker visit 4-6 weeks after birth, but Sure Start are currently ‘very busy’, and they will get round to us. Sadly, Betty could well be twenty seven by the time that happens.
It could be argued that these classes are being offered to the people who need them. Or the unemployed, ASBO laden, Jeremy Kyle fodder who demand them. Either way, they’re not appealing to us. Again.
As a teacher, I have always found Sure Start notoriously reluctant to information share with schools and other credible outside bodies, even though information is only sought in the interests of the child. They make sweeping promises and offers that are actually only available to those that meet the questionable, class-based criteria. The most frustrating thing about these government services is that they are touted around as being services ‘for all’. They’re not. But ‘for all’ means that these facilities can be more readily funded by taxpayer cash. Children’s Centres do have a place in selected parts of our society; but let it be a more defined, honest, transparent place. Sure Start is another ‘bunk off’ incentive. Another privilege for the under privileged. Closing branches of SureStart in the more affluent areas of St Helens would be a sensible thing to do; because the people they service DON’T LIVE THERE.
In closing the Rainford, Eccleston, etc branches, money would be freed up to provide different possibilities for parents like me. All little babies deserve attention, significance and opportunities. All new mothers need help, advice and support; regardless of their wealth, way of life or taste in jewellery.