West Smethwick Community Center

Best Practice: West Smethwick Community Center
West Smethwick Enterprise where the initial meeting was held was established as a local NGO 7 years ago by the Methodist Church in recognition of the huge need and demand for support to local families and their children.

Families in Smethwick originate from a multiplicity of cultural backgrounds and many do not have or use English as their main language. As a consequence there is a need to assist and support both families and children in ensuring that they have access to the right levels of information and assistance.

Whilst the Methodist Church is of the Christian Religion one of its major achievements is the way in which they enable children and families from all religions to come together for regular interaction and socialization, at the same time celebrating the rich cultural diversity of the local community. Religious celebrations of all faiths are held with particular value in enabling children at an early age to appreciate the value of community inclusion.

The Enterprise also makes provision for older people providing lunches both at the Centre as well as in their own homes accompanies by a wide variety of activities in the Centre to help older people develop skills and have enjoyment.

The Core Function of the Centre is the physical provision of Child Care through a day Nursery and Crèche facility as well as a specialist provision of a ‘Contact Centre’ for parents who are separated from their families and need supervised access to their children.

At any one time the Centre has contact with over 100 children and 50 families and also manages a ‘satellite’ Centre in a nearby district of Smethwick.

The Centre demonstrates on a daily basis the vitality of collaborating and co-operating with other agencies and the inaugural meeting was able to witness how this happened with a number of presentations from representatives from both statutory as well as other NGO agencies including the Local Authority (Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council – Gary Bowman), West Midlands Police as well as other Children’s Centre’s.

This collaboration is essential in enabling the protection and support of vulnerable children and their families including, in the most extreme cases, safeguarding children where there is a threat of physical and emotional abuse.

A range of skills and professions are engaged in the process of management of the Centre including those qualified as Nursery Nurses and Play Leaders. Teachers per se are not engaged unlike many other European countries.

West Smethwick Enterprise also provides a ‘Supervised Access Centre’ for parents who do not have custody of their children but who are allowed contact with them in a safe and neutral place on a regular basis. This is a provision which is authorized through the domestic Court/Justice system.

The manager of the organization, Sue Raisin Jones is also on the executive board of the Sandwell Community Hub Network, a consortium of similar NGO Community based Centres across the Borough of Sandwell. This Hub shares information and resources to enable a local, non-statutory response to a number of challenges and opportunities across the Borough to support vulnerable people of all ages and cultures.

The Borough of Sandwell in the West Midlands is adjacent to and north of the City of Birmingham and is recognized as one of the most deprived Council Boroughs in the United Kingdom in terms of child and family poverty and unemployment and whilst, in the main, being culturally very inclusive also has experienced issues around extremism.