The team at Butterflies Family Centre, based at Abbey Meads Community Primary School celebrated a successful first year at a birthday party on 23 May, with senior Swindon Borough councillors and officers.
The centre, which was formerly Butterfly Children’s Centre, was formed in 2015 following Swindon Council’s reconfiguring of children’s centres across the borough, in response to the increasing pressure on budgets.
A selection of families joined staff, volunteers, councillors and council officers to take part in singing, dancing, craft and messy activities. Council leader Cllr David Renard cut the birthday cake.
Manager Tanya Parkinson said: “Since being decommissioned as a children’s centre, the team have worked with council officers to reshape our service by involving the community and the families we work with. We’ve paid particular attention to those who have benefited from extra support at challenging times in their lives and taken note of how we can continue to help and support as many families with under 5s as possible.”
The centre has developed a programme of activities to support families with different needs by running a number of drop-in groups. The intention is to provide places within the community where parents can meet and support each other. This is especially important in a community like North Swindon where families often move in without having the support of family nearby, with always at least one trained member of staff on hand for advice and support.
A number of the Butterflies team are family and parent support advisors who run smaller groups offering additional support for invited and/or referred families. These give carers and children time to discuss concerns in a nurturing environment where trust is built.
Staff also provide outreach to families on a one-to-one basis for issues like family breakdown, low mental health, addiction, domestic abuse, parenting concerns and children with additional needs, which could be medical, developmental or emotional.
Tanya said: “Anyone can face challenges in their lives no matter their background; it may feel overwhelming at times. Talking to someone can be very daunting, but parents are reassured they are not alone. We are not here to judge, but to listen and offer ideas. I am extremely proud of the skills our team have – from accredited parenting course trainers, for both behaviour and autism, parenting specialists, counselling and therapist qualifications, qualified teacher status and more.”
Butterflies has worked intensively with over 500 families, over 90 per cent of whom have stayed and completed their support and 96 per cent show a positive change for their family. During the first part of 2016 more than 1,700 adults and children used the centre.
After receiving some intensive support a mother wrote to the centre, saying: “Thank you is not enough, but I want you to know how amazing you all are and what a difference you have made in mine and my children’s life. I am not sure if I would be where I am today without your support.”
Tanya said: “Feedback like this is so humbling. We are delighted that, together with Swindon Council, we have achieved such success within our first year as a family centre.”
Cllr Renard commented: “In the current financial climate it is a great challenge to deliver services as we have in the past. I’m impressed by the work being undertaken at Butterflies to make it sustainable.”
Cabinet colleague Fionula Foley, who has overseen the rationalisation of the borough’s children centres in the face of severe reduced funding, said: “I suggested to cabinet in 2013 that we develop the family centre model. Tanya, Bob and the Butterflies team are doing important work with families who need extra support and I’ll be speaking out in favour of funding the centre in the future.”
Top, Cllr Renard cutting cake with Butterflies manager Tanya Parkinson. Below, Cllr Foley sporting family centre branding, with Tanya Parkinson, Abbey Meads Primary School head Bob Buckley, and Butterflies worker Nicola Walton. Photos: Richard Wintle of Calyx