Today I spoke out in public for the first time.

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This will be my 3rd Blog post in relation to the Worcestershire Children’s Centre’s funding cuts.

On Friday 21st October a scrutiny meeting was held in a cramped Lakeview room at Worcestershire County Council. I forced myself to speak in this meeting to share our story once again, to make my presence known and to share how the funding cuts are already having an effect on the support my family receives.

Here is a copy of the passage I wrote and read out during the ‘Public Gallery’ section of the meeting.

I wanted to bring my daughter to this meeting today, but I’ve had to leave her with her Grandparents, she wouldn’t have coped with the unfamiliar room, the lights, the noise, etc. How do I know this, you may ask? Because I felt very much the same as a child. There were no Family Support Workers when I was a child, my parents received no support, and the result is today, that I’m a 33-year-old that has been mis-diagnosed.

You may or may not already be aware of my family’s story. I have written 2 Blog Posts around the funding cuts for Worcestershire Children’s Centres, and our story was featured in the Worcester News. I Blog under the name of ‘Sensory Sensitive Mummy.’

My daughter, who is 4 and a half, has Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD,) With traits of ADHD and Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) she also has Hypermobility in her joints and her school are now questioning Dyspraxia. We are currently waiting to find out the extent of a genetic anomaly that has been picked up via blood tests. My daughter is neither ‘naughty’ or ‘spoilt’ she has a neurological disorder, I have dedicated the past 12 months to researching Sensory Processing Disorder.

My daughter experiences sensory overloads and holds them all in during the school day, as soon as she reaches home she experiences violent outbursts, (or meltdowns,) she hits, kicks, spits, and is very rough with her 19-month-old sister. She requires constant supervision. If my daughter thrashes herself back and hits herself, will I get the blame is she’s hurt and will social services come knocking on my door? I have asked several times for support in Restraining Training to keep my daughter safe at home, I was told that this training is no longer available. From August 2015 until January 2016, we received 1 visit per week from a ‘Family Support worker’ from a Worcestershire Children’s Centre, this support turned our family life around and provided continual support as other problems came up in terms of my daughter. The Family Support worker, arranged ‘Multi-agency’ meetings for all the professionals involved in my daughter’s care, they would also chase reports, now I’m left to do all this all on my own, and with caring for 2 young children I am physically and mentally drained. As of September 2016, we have received 1 visit from the Family Support worker, where do I go to for support now?

Who do I talk to about issues that continually arise from having a child with Additional Needs? Schools are already pushed to their limit, they cannot provide me with the same emotional and practical support that a Family Support worker can, but my family have been discharged from this service because we don’t live in a disadvantaged area?

Please advise as to where I should go to for support and advice from now on?

 

I wondered if the councillors involved in making the decisions regarding the funding cuts, realise how difficult it was for people like me, who shared such personal information about our family life. At times I felt like the walls were closing in on me in that room and that everyone’s eyes were on me as my youngest child wanted to get up and explore the room, to be told that we couldn’t let the children explore due to “wires” which I could only see one, which could have easily been moved! I started to feel extremely short of breath and my daughter was restless so I had to leave the room for a time. I wonder if any of the counsellors involved in the decision making could ever understand how difficult it is for people like me to share such personal information in a room full of influential people. I do not understand politics, I don’t know if what I said was the right or wrong thing, after Cll Bayliss shot me down on stating that “we have been discharged from the Family support service because we don’t live in a disadvantaged area,” this is what I’ve been told – and that we are seen as a family that is “no longer in need of this service,” and not a “family at greatest need.” If we haven’t been discharged due this factor, then why have we been discharged? Sadly, I didn’t get my answer! Cll Bayliss proceeded to say that I could stay behind and he would talk to me about this, sounding rather like I was back at school and had to remain behind in class! My daughter was tired, my brain was frazzled and I just wanted to go home, sadly no matter how much you pour out your heart to this man, the response is always the same, “No Children’s Centres will close,” that may be true, however the 3 different weekly stay-and-play groups that I attended with my child, only this time last year, no longer exist. Yes, the buildings are still there but there is hardly anything going on in them anymore! The only conclusion that I can come to is that this individual actually has a heart of stone L

It’s also very worrying that cuts are being made to the health visiting service, my Health Visitor was the first practitioner to recognise my daughter’s difficulties in our own home, until this point my parenting was being blamed and I came to believe that I was a terrible mum. This Health Visitor also arranged for my daughter to be referred to Occupational Therapy, as there had been a mix up. She sped up the process after a 12-month wait and this support has been vital for my child. This same health practitioner supported me through having 2 children with allergies to all dairy products and egg, without her I wouldn’t have known where to turn for help.

I have spent the past 12 years of my life dedicated to teaching children in the Early Years from 4 months to 11 years, I am so very passionate about the early years, as this is the foundation of every child’s journey in life. I am so passionate about helping and supporting other families, and worried that families that are in the same place as we were a year ago won’t get the support that they most desperately need and deserve.

One thing is for sure, I definitely know who I won’t be voting for in the next local elections!

 

Thanks for reading 🙂

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My two precious children, the very reason why I gained the courage to speak out today, their futures matter, and so do those of other children. 

 

 

 

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Even though I didn’t attend…

 

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…Doesn’t mean that we don’t care or matter, for that instance.

On Thursday 15th September a final decision was made on the proposed Children’s Centre cuts for 32 centres across Worcestershire.

I have written a previous Blog post about:

‘The Impact that local children’s centres have had on my family.’

Our story was also featured in local newspapers such as this one:

Malvern Gazette – Children’s Centre cuts

On the day the decision stood that the 32 centres would remain open but will have their funding cut from 4.5 million to 3 million. What myself and other parents in the support groups I belong to are concerned about is with this level of cuts how can the same level of service be provided? There are many experienced professionals in areas such as Family Support who are still unaware of the security of their jobs. These professionals work so hard, and not only work from the centres, but go into family homes to provide support.

Conservative Councillor Marc Bayliss is very vocal about the decision on Twitter providing replies to selected ‘Tweets’ via Twitter. I asked him:

“If you had a child with additional needs who had up to 10 meltdowns a day, which service would you go to for support?”

His reply:

“We are not shutting any centres and children and families in need will still be supported.”

Such a general reply that many people are receiving, what I wanted was for Councillor Bayliss to put himself in our shoes, and try to understand what it’s like when you don’t have a child who complies at home, who has explosive outbursts, that effect the whole family, and this still happens after every strategy you’ve tried. If the centres are still open is it guaranteed that the families will actually receive the same level of support? I don’t think so, in August 2015 we were referred to Family Support at our local children’s centre and a year on my child’s behaviour is actually worse at home as she is stronger and more difficulties are becoming notable, instead of weekly visits we have now been offered 1, yes 1 home visit, so yes indeed we are already seeing the effects of the funding cuts. I am saddened that Councillor Bayliss cannot be more sympathetic towards parents who support the centres, as he is a father himself.

Catherine Driscoll a senior director at Worcestershire Council was appointed to oversee children’s services, on 16th August 2016, the Worcester News published a report where Ms Driscoll stated that:

“People using the centres are not those most at risk.”

“They are not vulnerable families at risk.”

This angered me greatly as it was all about demographics, statistics and numbers – ticking a box – something that matters to me the least. Then I thought about our own case, we are regular children’s centre users, as my previous Blog post details, I attended baby groups as I felt isolated, I have a history of anxiety and depression and this means that I often feel socially awkward and find it difficult to talk to other people. We live in a council house, our rented house was sold and we didn’t have the money to rent somewhere else privately as money was extremely short after not returning to work after July 2014, due to a house move into a council rented house, to which I have no shame as my partner works over 40 hours a week and we have made it a cosy and safe home for our children, does this make us not at risk? Does having mental health issue not put me at risk? My partner has learning difficulties and severe Dyslexia- does this not put us at risk? I also happen to have a degree in Primary Education and a Postgraduate Certificate – Early Years Teacher Status (EYTS.)

What I’m trying to say is not everything about everyone in a household has to be straightforward, whether seen as ‘vulnerable’ or not, families from all walks of life need support. Just because I have 12 years’ education and childcare experience doesn’t mean that I’m a perfect parent, when I discovered my child had additional needs I struggled, even though I’ve worked with children with additional needs in the past, when it’s happening in your own home, and there’s so much emotion involved it’s a very different story. I wish people could see past generalisations of ‘groups’ and ‘types’ of people and what they should and shouldn’t be able to do.

Councillor Bayliss talks in such a nasty way to centre supporters on Twitter he wrote to Daniel Walton (PCC Candidate for West Mercia – Labour Party.)

“you we’re the one predicting a mass demo. BTW there were 46 people there inc. 3 labour & 1 green councillors.”

In fact, Cll Bayliss had not included the children into the equation that attended the council meeting on 15th September and it’s their future that we’re fighting for, and of course they matter!

Siani who runs the group for Worcestershire mums network was correct in stating to Cll Bayliss:

“do you have any idea how hard it is for families to attend a weekday meeting? And how hard it was for the 46?”

I care, I wanted to be at the meeting with my children, but I couldn’t attend that time on that day. Cll Bayliss’ Tweet made me want to justify why I couldn’t be at the meeting, although I wanted to, along with many other parents.

Here’s the reason why I didn’t attend:

My 4-year-old started school on 5th September and is still attending for mornings only. After I dropped her off at 9am, it takes me around 15 minutes to settle her as she has Sensory Processing Disorder and is overwhelmed by the noise and business of her classroom first thing in the morning, she will literally cling onto my arm until the classroom isn’t as busy. By this time I would have missed the bus from my village to County hall, (8 miles away) and I do not drive due to circumstances from a crash when I was younger. I needed to stay within the local vicinity as my daughter was picked up at 12.45, meaning if I had attended the meeting I couldn’t have made the pick-up and she would have been distressed that I wasn’t there to collect. If I had brought both my children to the meeting, it would have meant my eldest missed school and it was important that she settles in her first days, having Sensory Processing Disorder means that she simply wouldn’t have coped with the sight and sounds of a council meeting and would have attempted to run out of the room several times. What I’m trying to say is, not everyone drives, not everyone has it easy, some people have to plan their trips out to the finest detail to ensure their children can cope with the situation. I will make my voice heard through the power of words, online via my Blog and social media, I’ve never been any good at debates or understanding politics, but I can write about what makes me passionate – and the lives of other families who experience the same as we have, but that miss out on the support, due to funding cuts – that’s what drives me.

Thanks for reading 🙂

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