17/03/2015 16:31 GMT | Updated 20/05/2015 10:12 BST

Mums Banned From Taking Buggies Into Mother And Baby Centre

North News

Mums have been banned from taking their prams and buggies into a mother and baby centre for 'health and safety reasons'.

The Sure Start centre in Darlington has told parents they have to leave their buggies chained up outside because they block walkways inside.

A spokesman for the town's council said that the ban was put in place after staff carried out a risk assessment and found the prams were blocking walkways and fire exits.

She said the centre has recently become busier as a result of new courses being put on, and was struggling to fit the extra pushchairs inside.

But furious mums say the ban is 'health and safety gone mad'.

One mother, Emma Easterby, 34, told the Northern Echo: "My baby has underdeveloped eyesight and doctors told me to use the sensory room there but I can't now as I can't take her pram in.

"There is no way I'm going to leave the pram chained up outside, I couldn't afford to replace it if it was stolen and I don't want to put my baby into a freezing cold buggy when we come back out.

"If word gets out that we are leaving our prams outside then we could be targeted.

"The staff have been abrupt and say it's health and safety but that never stopped us before - I've been going there for three months, the prams weren't causing problems or blocking corridors.

"I was there one Friday with no problem at all and by the same Monday we were turned away at the door. There was no warning given at all."

Another, Natalie Henderson, 28, said she was told to take her baby to another centre to be weighed after refusing to leave her buggy outside.

She said: "I'm not putting my baby into a freezing cold pram - it needs sorting, I can't get my baby weighed.

"They say it's health and safety but that's rubbish, it's supposed to be a centre for babies and children and they could get sick as a result of this nonsense."

Jade Davidson, who is mum to four-month-old Charlie, added: "Charlie has not been very well since birth so when I was asked to leave his pram outside in the sleet and rain I was really upset.

"I needed to take him in to be weighed so I agreed but when I came back out and put him in the buggy he was freezing and developed a cold as a result."

Despite Darlington Borough Council's stance, the Government's Health and Safety Executive said: "There is no health and safety reason for a blanket ban on buggies and prams in a children's centre.

"Seeking a solution that works for everyone would be infinitely preferable to hiding behind quoting "health and safety" as a blanket excuse."

Darlington's MP Jenny Chapman said: "Only a crazy person would insist parents wake their sleeping children before they're ready.

'I'm sure there were sound practical reasons for suggesting the rule but we need to make sure nothing puts parents off accessing services."

Jenni Cooke, a councillor responsible for children, families and learning, told the paper: "We've asked people to use their judgment, particularly at busy times, and park their prams and buggies in the covered, on-site buggy park.

"We will provide locks and help people get in and out of the centre if they need help."

Councillor Cyndi Hughes added: "Our priority is on speaking with these families to find workable solutions to the problems they have raised.

"We know the success of our Children's Centres depends on our ability to make it as user friendly as possible."

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Has this happened to you at your local centre or GP's?