Don't close our community cafe at Paradise Park Children Centre on the 28th of April.

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Islington Play Association local charity has had funding cuts which has resulted in planning the sudden closure of a local landmark cafe at Paradise Park children's center as of the 28th of April.

 In 2005 planning permission was granted to build the children's centre on Paradise Park on the condition the cafe was included to serve the local community. To close or privatize this cafe now is just not fair as the remainder of the building will still be in use, and the community will not be having the benefit of the cafe which originally enabled planning permission to be granted.

 The cafe provides affordable and healthy food and drink. But it also serves many other functions in the community.

 People wait in the cafe before and after various groups that are held in the building, such as the new mums group, the Somali bi-lingual stay and play, midwifery services, ESOL classes, workshops for parents etc. This provides an opportunity for people to mix and socialize and feel part of a wider community.

 Other children centre’s provide similar services but do not have a cafe. So why do we need one?

 As per the annual report from Islington Play Association, in 2015/2016 Paradise Park children's centre had reached more children (1,617) and families (1,382) than any of the other 15 children centre in Islington.

Paradise park children center has reached:

98% of children and families in Holloway catchment area 

99% of workless household;

100% of those who lives in statutory overcrowding;

96% of families living in social housing;

96% of families headed by lone parents;

98% of black ethnic families. 

This was achieved because of the cafe and its staff provide a welcome and warmth that feels like family.

 They are welcoming to all. It is an informal and safe environment where people chat over coffee, so people share their issues more openly and the experienced staff can signpost towards effective services, such as support for sufferers of domestic violence or poverty or mental health problems. 

 The fact that it is a cafe and provides food, masks the much more important role that it plays in the local community, and as Islington is the 4th poorest Borough in London with less open space and fewer parks for children to play in than any other London Borough, we cannot really afford to lose such a valuable community hub.

 It is a haven for parents going through difficulties. Parents having difficulties can result in children having difficulties, they are often hidden in the community. This cafe provides a safe space for all kinds of people to bring their challenges and find solutions along with their coffee and sugar free cake!

 There is enormous money spent on managing community problems. This cafe is saving community money by preventing community problems. It signposts effective services to vulnerable people and provides a community space which enables them to reach out in an informal manner.

 Following a recent improvement visit Islington council report on the children's center confirmed this saying "strong collaborative working is shown in this centre, the community café provides a welcoming environment which attracts passing parents and children. The staff in the reception area are skilled and tuned in to possible additional needs and will signpost to other professionals or alert other children’s centre staff."

 Most of the Children Centre services, if not all, as is not clear yet, will be relocated to different venues like libraries or community centres, but the cafe will just be closed with no relocation.

Funding should be made available to keep it open. If Islington council will commission some services in the Centre then the Islington Play Association could afford to run it and keep the café open.

 Many parents like me have suggested as well that we could do some shift at café if needed to keep cost down, as the Grasshopper Centre in Hackney is doing.

 As per the survey that Islington council made on July 2016 the great support for the cafe and other services is clear in the comments from users shown below:

 “Keep the café at Paradise Park YES PLEASE”

“The café at PPCC is an essential part of our local community. it provides not healthy, tasty, affordable food but also is a welcoming and inclusive environment for children and an essential resource for parents. The staff support visitors in so many ways from friendly conversations so helping to solve problems with children, work and finances.”

“I have been coming to Paradise Park café and CC since I was pregnant with my daughter who was born 3 years ago and I found it vital to be able to reach out for help and have always a friendly ear at the reception. Lisa and Sarah have been so supportive my daughter calls them aunties!”

“The café is a major community hub – provides a safe space for parents to meet, children to play, breastfeeding support, general support, signposting to other services.”

“The café at PPCC and the Children’s centre is a wonderful place that is welcoming and free for young mothers and is invaluable. Shame on the government to even consider introducing cuts to anything to do with babies and children Café is a brilliant meeting point, it promotes healthy eating.”

“The PPCC is so centrally located that it is great to reach so a lot of us meet here while the children play in a safe environment”

Somali Bi-lingual Stay and Play comments:

“Bilingual worker helps me to understand how children learn and develop”

“Bilingual Worker helps with information of activities. She took us to trip which I never been. If not for her I would never experience that joy with my children. I enjoy Somali group and universal services very much.”

  Alice’s new mums group comments:

“Ethan and I use Alice’s new mums group (for baby to 0 to 6 months) right from when Ethan was a few weeks old. I had a very traumatic birth and Ethan also had Cow’s Milk Protein allergy, which was not diagnosed until he was 4 months, so the first 6 months of his life were awful. Alice’s group really got me through. I was feeling very low and would often be on the sofa at night crying with Ethan, but I knew if it was a Tuesday then I only had to make it for a few more hours than I would not feel so alone and isolated any more. The support I got there and from the ladies on reception stopped me feeling like a terrible mother and gave me hope that I would get through. I truly believe they made a big difference in my mental health. I am still drawn back here when we have a bad day. They are my rock and I would be lost without them.” 

 If you agree with all the above and want your voice to be heard please sign this petition to save our loved community hub: Paradise Park children centre café.

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