New monthly service

A free mobile drop-in information and advice centre for parents and carers will take to the road in Waveney early next month (2 Feb).

Great Yarmouth & Waveney PCT

New monthly service for Beccles, Bungay, Halesworth and Southwold

A free mobile drop-in information and advice centre for parents and carers will take to the road in Waveney early next month (2 Feb).

Among those on board the Four Towns Community Bus – a converted London double-decker built in Lowestoft in the mid-80s – will be a variety of staff from Great Yarmouth and Waveney Primary Care Trust (PCT).

They will include school nurses, health visitors, stop smoking advisers and other members of the PCT’s public health team who will be on hand to provide information and advice about all aspects of bringing up children. No appointment will be necessary.

The bus will visit Beccles, Bungay, Halesworth and Southwold on the mornings of the first, second, third and fourth Fridays of the month respectively throughout 2007.

It will begin in the car park of the Tesco store, Beccles, on Friday 2 February, 10am-11.30am. The other venues will be the car park of the Rainbow store, Bungay; Angel Link, Halesworth; and the United Reformed Church, Southwold. All sessions will run from 10am-11.30am.

Kim Joyce, the PCT’s Children’s Service Team Leader, said the aim of the project was to make information and advice accessible to parents and carers of children aged 0-19 living in the four market towns and the surrounding rural areas.

“There are 27 schools in the area with a total of 9,000 children as well as preschools, nurseries and playgroups,” she said. “The idea of using the Four Towns Community Bus came from one of our school nurses who wanted to organise a drop-in service for parents and felt it was the best way to reach out to them.

“We look forward to welcoming parents and carers of children to this exciting new project where they will have the opportunity to meet and discuss their concerns with professionals from a wide variety of agencies.

“A large space upstairs can be used for workshops and ‘hands-on’ activities and there will also be free refreshments and plenty of leaflets for them to take away.

“It is our hope that through supporting parents and carers we can significantly improve the outcomes for children in rural areas.”

There is a space on the bus for consultations in private if the subject matter was particularly confidential, she added.

In addition to PCT staff, the project will involve staff from education, social care, children’s centres and from many other agencies. It is being funded by Southwold and Reydon Children’s Centre and by Suffolk County Council through its “Extended Schools” initiative which aims to provide a range of services and activities, often beyond the school day, to help meet community needs.

Organisers anticipate queries on many subjects including bed-wetting, behavioural problems, breastfeeding, sexual health, benefits and housing.

The service is aimed primarily at parents and carers but as it runs throughout the year, including school holidays, youngsters are also welcome to drop in.

Help on all subjects will be available at every session but each month a professional will be on hand to give information and advice on a particular topic:

February  - bug-busting (head lice and infection control)
March  - obesity, healthy eating, physical activity
April   - stop smoking
May   - positive parenting
June   - child safety
July   - pregnancy and babies
August  - adolescents, sexual health, drugs, alcohol
September  - rural health
October  - child adolescent and mental health
November  - cancer awareness
December  - disability and benefits

The Four Towns Bus Project was conceived in 2004 as a drop-in centre for young people in the evenings due to the lack of youth clubs. Funding came from many sources, including the Single Regeneration Budget and the Neighbourhood Renewal Fund.

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