Under new ownership: Open day at Swanage’s Focus Centre

Swanage Children’s Centre and Day Centre has got a new name and a new management team, with the aim of bringing more family and adult services back to the town and surrounding villages.

Along with The Centre, the buildings in Chapel Lane just off the High Street are now called The Focus Centre, owned and managed by the Swanage and Purbeck Development Trust on behalf of the local community.

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Focus Centre launch

A new name for the community buildings in Chapel Lane next door to the Swanage Methodist Church on the High Street

Owned and managed by the Swanage and Purbeck Development Trust

It’s taken many years of negotiation to complete the asset transfer of the community buildings from Dorset Council to the Trust but now the new team has got the keys and are holding an open day between 11 am and 2 pm on Saturday 11th May 2024 for everyone to come and look round.

On Friday 10th May 2024, there was a sneak preview with Dorset Council’s chief executive Matt Prosser and executive director of people – children Theresa Leavy invited to see the future plans, along with other guests.

Dorset Council’s chief executive Matt Prosser, Executive Director for Children’s Services, Theresa Leavy and Bob Foster

Dorset Council’s chief executive Matt Prosser (left) and executive director of people – children Theresa Leavy (centre) give their backing to the project with chair of the Swanage and Purbeck Development Trust Bob Foster (right)

Integrated inter-generational wellbeing complex

The big picture is to create an integrated inter-generational wellbeing complex with a Family Hub, Explorers Childcare, a day care centre and a wellbeing information centre called the Welcome Lounge.

There’s also plans for a community cafe, however it won’t be just any cafe, but one focussed on meeting the social needs of local people in warm and friendly surroundings.

Chair of Swanage and Purbeck Development Trust Bob Foster said:

“We are aiming to fill in the gaps in provision but we need local people to tell us what they want most. That’s why we are holding an open day, to get everyone’s views. There’s feedback forms and we are asking people to fill them out.

“Personally I was really disappointed when the Sure Start service was closed down many years ago but now with the Family Hub we can look at building it back better, while also offering services across every age range.”

Focus Centre launch

People are invited to turn up to the open day

Focus Centre launch

The Day Centre is a substantial building that will be internally remodelled to meet the needs of the community

“Rooting the project in the community”

Dorset Council has been given a grant from the government to roll out Family Hubs across the area. There’s already one in Wareham and now Swanage is the latest town to benefit.

Family Hub programme lead for Dorset Council Rebecca Watson said:

“It’s been a long time coming, with lots of work going on behind the scenes and while we are still at the early stages, the start of setting up a Family Hub in Swanage is now happening.

“It’s quite a novel approach as other Family Hubs in Wareham, Ferndown and Wimborne are being run by Dorset Council but here we are working in partnership with the Trust. This has the advantage of rooting the project in the community, led by local people.

“Family hubs are for anyone involved in the life of a child and for young people themselves. It’s a place to get information on a range of subjects including early years, mental health and sexual health. It’s somewhere to go, where you can be sure of a warm welcome.”

Focus Centre launch

Family Hub programme lead for Dorset Council Rebecca Watson explains more about Family Hubs

Focus Centre launch

Future plans are on display

“Drive this excellent project forward!”

Architects and surveyors are being employed to remodel the site to best suit the needs of the community and the drawings will be on display over the open day.

Swanage Town Council is backing the plans and has provided initial funding to ensure the early financial viability of the project. Attending the preview event, Swanage town mayor Tina Foster said:

“I’m very pleased and proud to be here – it’s taken a lot of meetings and plenty of anguish to get this far.

“Thank you to all the volunteers that have worked so hard. We’ve now got a newly elected Swanage Town Council including six new councillors who will all be helping to drive this excellent project forward!”

Focus Centre launch

Swanage town mayor Tina Foster (centre) was invited to a preview event along with other guests

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