A building that looked like an eyesore to some, to Home-Start Conwy offered the potential to create a community hub where families could find friendship, develop new skills and access support.

With an office and training room up a flight of stairs, Home-Start Conwy wanted to move to more accessible premises. A closed down community centre was identified in an area with lots of families living locally, but no facilities or services available to them.

Home-Start Conwy trustee Hugh Lomas explains how they turned the run down centre into Home-Start’s new base and how it’s enabled them to reach more families and provide them with additional support during the cost of living crisis.

We immediately saw the potential. Admittedly it was in a bad way, but it had easy access for prams and disabled people, large open spaces and a café area. It was also in an area where we could make a difference.

We quickly put together a business plan and presented it to the council. Fortunately the council know us and have worked with us before, so they gave us the green light to go ahead.  It was then all hands on deck to get the centre ready for opening.”

As part of the business case, Home-Start Conwy had to show the impact they would have on the wider community. This required them to step outside the existing model of supporting families with children under five, to provide classes and programmes accessible to everyone from the local community.

Successful grant applications made it all possible

Through a number of successful grant applications, Home-Start Conwy was able to recruit a number of specialist roles, including a play and activity coordinator, a youth worker and a centre coordinator.

Tania Cornick, play and activity coordinator, explains her new role at the centre.

“I run play sessions for parents and their young children, including our music sessions for toddlers and ‘chat and play’ sessions for mums and babies. I also run a children’s group and work closely with Nihal, our youth worker who runs groups for the older children".

The importance of play

"Play is so very important to a child’s development and also to family bonding, so I feel very privileged to be able to create moments where parents can simply enjoy their children. It is through play we learn to grow and connect with each other.

When you’re at home it can be very hard to find time to play with your children and be truly ‘in the moment’. That’s what’s so nice about our play sessions. They provide parents an opportunity away from the home environment to focus on their child.

I suggest to parents when they’re playing with their children to take a moment and just appreciate being together and connecting with their child, perhaps in a way they haven’t connected with them before.

When I’m not running or preparing for a class, I’m usually working on our sensory garden. We’re creating a sensory path where the children can feel different surfaces under their feet. There’ll also be a music therapy area with pipes and chimes that the children can play with, a recycling wall to teach children about the importance of caring for the environment and a vegetable garden as part of our mental wellbeing offering.”

Supporting older children through a youth worker is very different to Home-Start’s usual model, but Hugh explains how it has helped them to reach new families.

Helping children to reach their potential

“Nihal’s a big hit with the children. He skateboards to the centre in the morning and the children follow him. For a number of the children on the estate all they see is low income jobs and social issues. Nihal is helping them to raise their sights and see that there’s a much bigger world out there.

Over the past few months we’ve seen how Nihal’s work with the youth groups has given us an insight into families we’re not already in contact with, but who might benefit from Home-Start support. Many of the older children have younger siblings and through our work with the older children, we’ve been able to gain a better understanding of what’s happening at home and if parents wish to engage with us.”

Danielle Meccles is a mum of two who lives up the road from the community centre. After hearing about the work of the Home-Start she became a trustee.

“We moved to the area a year ago. There were no mum and toddler groups, or anywhere for parents to meet. The idea of a centre opening up was very exciting. Seeing it open its doors, and especially seeing children use it, has been the loveliest thing.”

The new Home-Start Conwy centre has quickly become part of the community, with pram walk and talks, yoga, wellbeing and healthy eating classes, mental health awareness and first aid courses. A session with Citizen’s Advice, on what families can do this winter to help with the cost of living, is being developed and due to take place this autumn.

The adaptable approach of Home-Start Conwy has transformed a local community and is providing children many opportunities to grow and develop.

Find out how Home-Start can support you 

Donate Now

Read next Angela's volunteer story: 91 and not ready to retire