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'Thank goodness it survived' - Relief at toy library being saved

PUBLISHED: 16:43 30 November 2019 | UPDATED: 16:43 30 November 2019

Adi Hanbury-Gupta, 4, from Sprowston, at the Sewell Toy Library at Silver Road Community Centre in Norwich. Picture: Victoria Pertusa

Adi Hanbury-Gupta, 4, from Sprowston, at the Sewell Toy Library at Silver Road Community Centre in Norwich. Picture: Victoria Pertusa

Victoria Pertusa

Parents have praised the continuation of a toy library following the Sure Start children's centre closures.

Children at the Sewell Toy Library at Silver Road Community Centre in Norwich. Picture: Victoria PertusaChildren at the Sewell Toy Library at Silver Road Community Centre in Norwich. Picture: Victoria Pertusa

Norfolk County Council's children's services committee closed 38 of the 53 children's centres in January 2019.

Children and parents at the Sewell Toy Library at Silver Road Community Centre in Norwich. Picture: Victoria PertusaChildren and parents at the Sewell Toy Library at Silver Road Community Centre in Norwich. Picture: Victoria Pertusa

Since September parents and carers of children aged 0-5 have been able to access services, from group support for parents to baby massage, through a new Early Childhood and Family Service.

Gini Hanbury, from Sprowston, who attends the Sewell Toy Library at Silver Road Community Centre in Norwich. Picture: Victoria PertusaGini Hanbury, from Sprowston, who attends the Sewell Toy Library at Silver Road Community Centre in Norwich. Picture: Victoria Pertusa

These are held at libraries and 15 former children's centres.

Gemma Whitham, 35, from Silver Road in Norwich, with her nine month old daughter Nancy, at the Sewell Toy Library at the Silver Road Community Centre in Norwich. Picture: Victoria PertusaGemma Whitham, 35, from Silver Road in Norwich, with her nine month old daughter Nancy, at the Sewell Toy Library at the Silver Road Community Centre in Norwich. Picture: Victoria Pertusa

One of the centres which took on one of the services was Silver Road Community Centre which hosts Sewell Toy Library - where parents can loan toys.

Julie Brociek-Coulton, who runs the Sewell Toy Library as well as being city councillor for Norwich’s Sewell area. Picture: Victoria PertusaJulie Brociek-Coulton, who runs the Sewell Toy Library as well as being city councillor for Norwich’s Sewell area. Picture: Victoria Pertusa

Part-time teacher Gini Hanbury, 43, of Clover Road in Sprowston, who has a four-year-old son, said: "Thank goodness the toy library survived. Emotionally it is a real shame the children's centres have gone. As a single parent the Sure Start centres had a big social impact. I feel for young mums now as they don't have access to inclusive spaces. I don't know what I would have done if it had not have been for the children's centres."

The Silver Road Community Centre on Silver Road, Norwich. Picture: Victoria PertusaThe Silver Road Community Centre on Silver Road, Norwich. Picture: Victoria Pertusa

Gemma Whitham, 35, of Silver Road in Norwich, who has a nine month old girl called Nancy, was a regular at the North City children's centre to weigh her baby or speak with health visitors.

She said: "There is nowhere to go to weigh Nancy apart from the public library. Being able to speak to health visitors at the children's centre put my mind at rest. It is really nice to have the toy library."

Sewell Toy Library founder, Julie Brociek-Coulton, who is city councillor for Norwich's Sewell area, said: "There is so much about social isolation going on so it is good if a parent can talk to another parent about their child. I was against the children's centres being closed. A lot of parents were devastated because they were a safe haven."

A Norfolk County Council spokesman said: "There is a new early childhood and family service covering the county, with sessions running several times a week in the Sewell area of Norwich including at Silver Road Community Centre. Our new service is focused on providing support to those who need it most and ensuring there is outreach support available across Norfolk's communities. We are providing support to new and existing community groups for babies and toddlers, via our community fund."

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