The Pudney Hub has opened on Kennedy Road in Napier, offering pre-school care for children with disabilities – a resource the region has needed but not had until now.

The hub will provide access for parents to vital support services catered specifically for children with disabilities or additional needs, says executive director Glenn Bond.

Support services include education, speech-language and occupational therapies. Caregivers will have access to tools to help them realise the potential of their children and create a network of other caregivers in a similar situation.

The Pudney Hub will work closely with other daycare centres, hospitals and community organisations that the children in their care are connected to, ensuring a seamless coordination, Bond says.

Facilities like these are commonly found in main centres, but regional New Zealand has fewer options. Until now the Bay has been without one, and in some cases families have faced the question of moving in order to access the necessary support, he said.

“That’s the gap we seek to fill. So that if you are a family who discover that your young child has special needs that you can access those services locally without having to consider moving to where those services are available.

“We are hoping to build something that is sustainable and here for the long haul and we’re hoping that we’ll get some loyal Hawke’s Bay support, maybe some businesses or Hawke’s Bay people who want to be able to look after our own and support us to fill this very local gap.”

The doors opened in week one of term two and the volume of enquires has been steadily growing. The hub is already accommodating 12 families, more than expected at this early stage and sometime next term, it’s likely things places will move to a wait list.

It had always been a question of supply rather than demand, and that needs to be balanced with paying salaries, which limits the number of hours the hub can open, Bond said.

Initial funding has included a start-up grant from the Ministry of Social Development for the first year of operation, and a small amount of ongoing funding for early childhood care from the Ministry of Education, but neither of which are enough to fund the staffing. 

“We are needing to fundraise in order to keep the lights on. We’ve been able to fundraise for the first year but long term we are really going to need some philanthropic partners, public or private. Ministry of Education funding will never adequately pay for the services that we’re trying to provide,” Bond said.

Bond noted the challenges local families faced before the Pudney Hub. “It’s a difficult road for many of our whānau, when their child isn’t meeting developmental milestones. There’s limited support available for those under school age here in the regions. There have been a lot of tears in these first few weeks, as we understand what a profound impact the centre has had on the local community.”

One parent said the support they received was “above and beyond”.

“My child has settled in really well and it’s nice to see him being comfortable and confident from the first day.”

Her son Arlo (not his real name) has autism spectrum disorder and attended the centre for weekly sessions that incorporate the use of words, pictures, signs and access to learning resources and educators.

“We love the teachers and all the amazing work. They are so enthusiastic and have so many fantastic ideas to help with Arlo’s needs. It’s such a lovely space and so many fun things to play with. But it’s also a really comforting and welcoming space. We feel really supported in Arlo’s development, which is so good.”

Deputy Mayor of Napier Annette Brosnan was there to officially open the centre.

“Napier is all about everyone having a place and a space where beautiful things can happen, so thank you so much for adding to that in our community,” Brosnan said, addressing Bond and founder Clare Pudney.

It was Pudney, the hub’s clinical director and speech language specialist, who’s dream it was to set the centre up.

Public interest journalism funded by New Zealand on Air.

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