Children’s charity Barnardo’s is bidding a fond farewell to a Swindon project which transformed hundreds of local lives.
Barnardo’s South West has managed the Robert Le Kyng Sure Start children’s centre in Westcott Street since it first opened in 2006.
Managed by the charity on behalf of Swindon Borough Council, the project provides free support and advice to parents and carers of under-5s.
The current contract expires at the end of this month, after which it will be managed by another provider, so a farewell party was held for the community to celebrate everything that has been achieved over the last six years.
The highlight was the official opening of a new landscaped garden created by a team of local volunteers.
Children were invited to dig, explore and play with mud, as well as plant seeds and enjoy arts and crafts.
There was also a ‘gnome hunt’ and the opportunity to hold snakes and lizards from ‘Andy’s Animal Encounters’.
Since the project opened, it has registered more than 1,000 children and helped more than 450 families.
Support has included parenting programmes, breastfeeding advice, cookery courses, healthy eating, and links to training and employment.
Positive outcomes have included 74 per cent of adults reporting improved family relationships and 66 per cent reporting improved parenting.
In addition, almost 90 per cent reported increased confidence and 80 per cent reported improved social networks.
Heather Colbeck, Director Barnardo’s South West, said: “We are very sad to be leaving this important project, but we remain immensely proud of everything that we achieved.
“However, it is important to stress that the children’s centre is not closing. It will just be managed by another provider from April 1st.
“Nor is Barnardo’s making any staff redundant. Their employment will transfer to the new providers.
“We simply hope today’s farewell celebration will end our partnership on a high note and raise awareness of how Sure Start schemes can give children the best possible start in life.”
Barnardo’s children’s services manager Julianna Forrester said: “We have a caring and enthusiastic team which has made a lasting difference to the local community.
“Thanks to the dedication and commitment of our staff and volunteers, together with the hard work of parents and carers, we have helped hundreds of people to achieve their potential.
“We hope that local families will continue to make the most of the wonderful opportunities provided by this project, which offers free support during the crucial early years of a child’s life.”
The new garden area was created by Grassroots Landscaping, with equipment and materials kindly donated by a large number of local businesses.
It includes raised beds and a small allotment, plus a den, fire pit, mud pit, willow maze, wooden climbing feature and a puddle splash area.
Cllr David Renard, Swindon Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, said: “I would like to thank Barnardo’s for the positive contribution they have made to the children and families who have used the Robert Le Kyng Children’s Centre.
“I have followed their work with great interest and they have provided a firm platform for the new provider to build upon.”
Call Robert Le Kyng Sure Start Children’s Centre on 01793 525830 or visit www.barnardos.org.uk/rlkchildrenscentre