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Sale mum launches play group for disadvantaged families after she’s left ‘devastated’ by local closures

By Alice Richardson

A mum from Sale has opened her own baby and toddler group for disadvantaged families after she was left ‘devastated’ by other sites closing nearby.

Helen Lord lives on the Sale West Estate and works part-time for Salford council’s safeguarding team – she remembers the ‘lifeline’ her local community centre was to her when her little ones were younger.

But after the pandemic, Sale West’s baby and toddler group did not reopen its doors.

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Helen and other residents were left without the vital support that came from the group, so she stepped in to help.

The mum, who has a background in social work, said: “If you look at the demographics of the nearby schools, there’s a lot of disadvantaged families, there’s lots of pastoral support needed.

Helen Lord set to group up after the baby and toddler group in Sale West didn't reopen after the pandemic (Helen Lord)

“The schools said they just couldn’t offer support to people, there were too many families needing it, with families losing jobs during the pandemic and those already struggling.

“And when the toddler group run by the council didn’t come back after March 2021. I’m lucky, I’m well supported, but I know through my work that not everbody is. And people don’t talk about it. At the school gates there are victims of domestic violence and people who’ve been kicked out of their family home.

“I could see a need – families desperately in need of clothes as well as advice on services, benefits and money. So I was sat up until 2am writing risk assessments and putting in successful grant funding applications.”

Helen’s new group, Sunbeams, had its first session this week and 15 children attended.

The group provides activities and play space for babies and toddlers, as well as support for parents and families – everything from providing second hand toys and clothes to advice on how to go about applying for benefits, or how to get other vital support from local services like domestic abuse charities.

Activities include story time sessions, visits from farmyard animals, crafting and more.

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All of Helen’s team, which includes her mum and cousin, are DBS checked and fully trained with all legal compliance, risk assessments and other requirements in place.

Helen has been working hard to get the group up and running, filing funding applications and paperwork with Trafford council, Our Sale West community group and forging connections with local supermarkets (including the local Co-op, Tescos and Asda) to provide food for the group at a reduced cost.

Helen Lord (centre) launched the group with volunteers, who have all had training and passed DBS checks (Helen Lord)

Helen added: “I want to thank everyone for their kind donations and all their help so far. This is grass roots work. If there’s support from groups like this, from birth, families feel part of the community and it creates a nurturing society. It stops criminality further down the line because the kids and families feel part of something, they feel supported and it’s so important.

“There’s a shortage of youth activities in Sale West and that needs to change. We want people to feel reassured, to come along and get the support they need. It’s meant for the people of Sale West, but I would never turn anybody away. We need to really carefully support people and help them.”

Currently, the group is able to use a Trafford Council owned space in the Sale West Estate, but it only has capacity for 15 children.

With hopes of expanding, Helen wants to secure a bigger space so she and her team of trained volunteers and specialists can help even more people.

The Sale West estate (Google)

Helen is running the Great Manchester Run 10km on May 22 and is asking for cash donations to help fund the hire of that larger space for the children. To donate to her fundraising effort, click here.

She’ll be running with the aim of finishing in one hour or less and is also taking part in honour of her running partner who sadly can’t compete this year after being diagnosed with the auto-immune system disorder Graves’ disease.

Helen has asked for no more donations of second hand toys, as the group now has plenty to make use of, but said cash donations are always welcome.

If you or someone you know might benefit from Sunbeams and the support they offer, you can email Helen directly on swsunbeams@gmail.com.

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Dive Deeper:
US parents swap and sell baby formula amidst country-wide shortage
A US-wide baby formula shortage forces frenzied parents into online groups to swap and sell to each other to keep…
West Lothian steps up as almost 300 families offer refuge to Ukrainians
Households in towns and villages across the county have offered to provide home to those fleeing war. The council is…
New toddler group opens its doors in Lanarkshire village
Teeny Tiny Totz was set up by a group of mums left frustrated of having no such facility in Cleland
Homeowner forced to use wheelie bins to save parking space on 'nightmare' road
Helen Barrell, 43, from Smethwick, West Midlands, has used her wheelie bins to reserve parking outside her house as the…
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Leeds couple give Ukrainian family brand new house - right next to theirs
Kate Moran says she and her family said 'they couldn't just sit back and do nothing'
Ukraine refugees staying with UK hosts not cleared by DBS criminal record checks
Concerns grow for safety of those heading to Britain amid delays to local authority vetting• Russia-Ukraine war: latest developments
Get all your news in one place