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Tuesday, 24 April 2012

My Local Children's Centre- inclusive?? UPDATE

Today was one of those days you really dread. Having to have a public confrontation with Officialdom *

(* term used Loosely)

I was already very worried about my Midwife appointment today. I have no child care and so Tiddler has to accompany me to all of my antenatal appointments. This is far from ideal and incredibly stressful for both of us. She screams and cries as soon as anyone so much as puts the blood pressure band around my arm, let alone tries to take blood or if I have to lie down.

So anyway, apparently, "Every Child Matters"... It didn't feel like that today.

My complaint email is copied below. I will update with any response I get.

I visited your .... Centre today, 24th April and wish to draw your attention to the experience I had.

I had a booked Midwife appointment and, having used your centre before and being aware of your pushchair policy, I called ahead. I called on 18th April to seek reassurance that I would be able to bring my pushchair into the Children's Centre. I was told that this would be absolutely fine, Midwife appointments were different, but that you couldn't take a pushchair in to the Play and Learn sessions. Understandable, and I have indeed left my pushchair in the buggy park when I have attended Play and Learn sessions.

Upon arrival at the Centre today, I was told straight away that I could not take the pushchair in. I explained that I had called ahead and had been assured it would be ok. I was immediately challenged and asked who exactly I had spoken to. Unsurprisingly, I had not taken the name of the lady I spoke to (although looking at my phone records I have established it was 18th April at 08.48) I explained that my child has additional needs and so she had to be seated in the pushchair.

The first employee then went to get a colleague who came into the reception area. This colleague was clearly more empathetic than the first but was still adamant that I could not push the pushchair into the Centre. I explained that My daughter cannot stand unaided, cannot walk yet, has additional needs and that I have no child care meaning she must attend with me. I asked how else was I supposed to attend my Midwife appointment when the clinic is held here? The whole experience was made all the more frustrating as I had called ahead to establish that there would not be a problem. 

I was told that having the pushchair there posed a danger in that routes to fire exits could be blocked. I wonder then how a wheelchair user would have been greeted? Are they also guilty of blocking fire exits? How is this policy inclusive? I cannot believe I am the only Mum with a non-walker attending the Midwife, let alone a Mum of a child with additional needs. As the Midwifery clinic is held in the Children's Centre I cannot believe it is acceptable to attempt to bar access to services in this way.

The whole incident was upsetting, frustrating and embarrassing as the conversation was held in reception in earshot of one other mum.  Eventually, it was suggested that my daughter sit in a Tumbleform chair, or the worker would speak to the Midwife to see if she was happy if I took a pushchair into the appointment. The Midwife was busy and so was not disturbed, I assured the Centre worker that there was enough room in there for a pushchair- it seems that she did not know the room. In the end, I was told I could use the pushchair today, as a one off. 

At the very least, I believe the access policy should be reviewed. If not all patients can attend the Midwife clinic because of the Children's Centre policies, I don't see how it can be held there. this is not inclusive, in effect I am being denied a service because of my daughter's health problems. I understand that you cannot allow every pushchair in the building but at the same time I also think there needs to be some flexibility, especially when I had called ahead to check the position. This was a humiliating and stressful experience and I look forward to your response.

As promised, here is the response to my complaint:

"Dear ******
I was very concerned to hear that you did not have a happy experience at ******* Children’s Centre this week.  I cannot imagine how difficult it must be for you at the moment.
I have spoken to the administrator who was your first contact on Tuesday, and our family worker who was the second member of staff.  Both are extremely sorry that you went away feeling upset and angry.  I gather that you were finally given access to meet the midwife so did not miss your appointment. 
We are having some issues at ******* at the moment as you have probably noticed, with a leaky roof.  With all this rain that has not been made easier and the repairs are taking longer because of it.  This has made the corridors and fire exits rather difficult to access which would not normally be the case and I believe the staff were being very concerned around the health and safety of all people accessing and exiting the building.
I also wondered if you would like to join a group of parents who could advise us on how they feel Children’s Centres could be more inclusive.  ... we run a group for children who have been diagnosed with autism and the parents are vital in informing us about the service we deliver.
I do hope this email has made you feel more reassured but should you feel you need to discuss the matter further, please do contact me on the mobile number or email me on the contacts below...."

And in response my reply... There is still no confirmation that I can take a pushchair into the building. I appreciate the time taken to reply but feel that this reply did little to address my complaint.

"Hi ****

Thanks for your response to my complaint. I appreciate the time you took to look into this, thank you. However, I am unsure from your response whether next time I will be allowed to bring the pushchair in to the building?  Can you please confirm that this will be the case? 

While I know that there are building works at the moment, certainly when we were at the Centre there were none inside and no obstructions of fire exits. As I asked in my earlier email, what am I and others like me supposed to do ? Would the policy be the same for wheelchair users? 

Finally, I would be interested in joining a Parents Forum, certainly-great idea!

I look forward to hearing from you"

Will post any response to the Blog. Anxious to get this resolved though otherwise pretty concerned as to how I will attend any further Midwife appointments... Especially if I don't have notice to ask the Midwife if she can meet me elsewhere



  1. Shocking lack of common sense by complete jobs worths. How can a clinic be held in a place where you cannot go with pushchairs? Ridiculous state of affairs which would have riled me! Good on you for complaining!

  2. Poor you!
    That is a horrible experience and one you should never have to go through!
    Did you tell your midwife as well - she might be able to put in a word too?
    Sending you and your little one lots of hugs!!

  3. So sorry to hear of your experience, that's appalling! If you have no luck with the CHildren's Centre manager do write and complain to Sure Start and OFsted as all centres are inspected by them and I'm sure they would be interested in the way you were treated, good luck, do let us know how it turns out x x

  4. good grief! that is shocking in this day and age. you are absolutely right to complain and if you don't get a decent response you should consider taking it further. I cannot understand why some people are so hung up on 'rules' and can't find some human compassion within themselves.Ridiculous to not allow pushchairs into a place like that and as you say it makes you wonder what their policy on wheelchairs is.
    good luck and hugs.

  5. That is shocking! I'm glad you complained! I hope they respond to your letter. x

  6. Unbelievable!! Good for you for complaining. Take it further if you don't get a response and I'm sure a mention of writing to the local paper will get them to take it seriously if not!!

  7. I'm really pleased that you said something. Sometimes things aren't obvious, even to the most intelligent of people.

    [p.s. however, my one bit of advice would be that if you find yourself in a similar situation again, casually put the word 'discrimination' into a sentence. I find it makes people listen x]