Let’s take care of the caring sector

It was great to see that the mini-profile of new Lothians List MSP Kezia Dugdale in the weekend papers stated that she is keen to focus on improving things for the voluntary sector.  As someone who previously worked for an environmental NGO, and spent as much time scrabbling around trying to raise my own salary as I did on campaigning, I can confirm that a shake-up of the funding system for the third sector would be very welcome. John Downie from SCVO has written at greater length here about the problems currently faced in the sector, especially in light of the economic climate.

The SNP Manifesto section on the voluntary sector can be found here, and they certainly seem to be saying all the right things, but it’s important than MSPs from across the parties keep up the pressure on the new Scottish Government to actually deliver their promises.

I’m hoping that cross-party support for a strong voluntary sector will be good news for an Edinburgh organisation very dear to my heart – the Pregnancy and Parents Centre.

Formerly known as the Birth Resource Centre, the PPC has been running – under various guises – for 25 years. It started off as half a dozen women meeting up in the front room of a friend, but these days it provides support during pregnancy, childbirth and beyond for over 150 women and families every week. It’s hard to believe that it’s coming up for three years since I became pregnant with DorkySon, but I remember that as soon as the news became public I received a flurry of emails from colleagues and friends with children, all saying, “You have to visit the Birth Resource Centre, it’s such a great place.”

And it really is great. The PPC offers both practical and emotional support to women and their families, everything from pregnancy yoga to birth preparation classes, breastfeeding support, music classes, baby massage and second-hand sales. They also provide an irreplaceable social network for many pregnant women and new mothers. Pregnancy yoga classes are always followed by half an hour of chatting over tea and biscuits, and two years after having my son, many of my best mum friends are still people that I first met at the PPC.

Like so many other not-for-profit organisations, the PPC have had financial struggles, and I’m hopeful that they are the kind of organisation who will benefit from having a new Government that appreciates the role of the voluntary sector.

However, they have also worked incredibly hard at organising their own fundraising, and this year provides a unique opportunity for both fundraising and birthday celebrations, as the PPC marks its 25th anniversary. DorkyDad and I attended a Special Friends of the PPC evening a few weeks ago, where we learned a little more about the history of the centre, and heard some of the wonderful testimonials from families who attended it over the years. We were delighted to help them kick off their fundraising campaign by making a one-off donation, along with pledging a smaller monthly contribution.

This weekend, a Baby Bloomers team took part in the Glasgow 10k to raise money for the centre, and they ranged from women who had used the centre twenty years ago, to women who are attending classes there now. Over the summer, the centre will be making contact with as many former users as they can, to let them know about the 25th anniversary and encourage them to support the excellent and varied work is ongoing there.

As a student, I used to walk past the Birth Resource Centre and wonder what the heck it was. It was only after becoming pregnant that I discovered what an incredible service they provide to families in Edinburgh. Scotland’s third sector is full of such niche organisations, that may not be hugely well known, but provide an invaluable service for their users and would leave a huge gap in many lives if they were gone. I feel incredibly lucky to be in a position where DorkyDad and I can help support the work of the centre, and I hope other individuals will be able to do the same over the coming months, but I also hope that the newly elected Government will give these organisations the respect and support they deserve. Scotland would be a far poorer place without them.

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