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Special needs charity relocates to Thatcham

Swings and Smiles sets up new home in former children's centre

Special needs charity relocates to Thatcham

A LOCAL charity providing a space for children with special needs to play with their families is relocating to Thatcham.

Swings & Smiles has moved into the former children’s centre in Lower Way after signing a seven-year lease with West Berkshire Council. 

Swings & Smiles, founded in 2007, opened at the council’s Phoenix Centre in Newbury in the summer of 2014 to provide a specialist, fully-resourced recreational facility for families of children with learning difficulties and disabilities. Since then, more than 400 families have registered to play there.

The charity has been hunting for a permanent home since it was founded and has now outgrown the Phoenix Centre, with the charity’s lease expiring this year. 

The founder of Swings & Smiles, Sian Cook, said: “This is great news.

“We had begun to outgrow the Phoenix Resource Centre and needed more space, including outdoor, and to be able to increase our opening times.

“Our potential demand is increasing year-on-year and our longer-term aim is to construct and equip a purpose-built facility which meets a much wider need.

“The Lower Way building offers a good, secure outdoor space. It’s very important for the children who come to us to be able to enjoy outside play so the new base is perfect for us.”

Swings & Smiles had been in discussions with Thatcham Town Council to make the Lower Way Pavilion, opposite the children’s centre, its permanent home but a covenant owned by developer Persimmon Homes has stood in the way.   

West Berkshire Council withdrew funding for the Lower Way children’s centre, along with three others in the district, as part of its sweeping budget cuts last year.

The building is still used by community groups, including the Colourful Caterpillar Preschool. 

West Berkshire’s executive member for children and young people, Lynne Doherty, said: “I’m delighted that Swings & Smiles are able to make good use of this building.  We are pleased to be able to support this important local charity and that they will be able to continue to progress and grow in their new home.”

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