A child at the Refuge once said, “The staff are all very welcoming and good to us but I like to be at home with my friends.”

No child should have to leave their home, friends, pets and school because of abuse within the family. Often times however, this is necessary to keep them and their mother safe. While the Refuge has always catered to both mothers and children needing the service, they have provided a dedicated childcare programme to clients since 1997, providing fully-trained staff and facilities.

Children react differently when they come into Refuge; some believe they are on holiday and refer to the refuge as “the hotel,” while others understand the true purpose our service. The first contact with the Refuge can be quite intimidating for all concerned, involving as it often does an upheaval in the child’s life and routine. The childcare staff are acutely aware of the sensitivity needed to allow children to settle in and become comfortable with their new environment. Inevitably they do settle and grow to love the Playroom and the activities provided by the childcare staff. The Playroom is a child-centred environment that offers facilities suitable for nursery and playschool age, with activities also offered for primary and secondary school children.

While it can be difficult to engage older children (we are limited in the activities we can provide to older children, particularly teenage boys), we link in with other groups in the community, such as youth groups and sporting groups, to offer them stimulation and diversion. School is vital for children that have to leave home; links have been established with the local schools to accommodate the children while they are in refuge. All children must attend school within one week of admission to the Refuge.

The Playroom is a place of fun and creativity but also a safe place to talk about feelings and emotions. It has proven to be a vital link in improving  communication between mother and child on many occasions. Homework is done in the Playroom, and as a result, the childcare staff have been able to identify the educational needs of children and help mothers access required resources.

All children’s birthdays are celebrated in the Playroom. Nationality, ethnicity, age and disability are taken into consideration when organising outings and celebrations where appropriate. This is a special time for any child so the Refuge ensures that every child who has a birthday while in the Refuge gets a present and a party to celebrate the occasion. In a few cases, where home life had been particularly difficult, this was the first time a child had a birthday party.