By Andy Hirst

Most people have heard of the Yorkshire Children’s Centre in Huddersfield … but few probably know exactly what it does.

Well, the charity has its roots back to 1974 and has been helping families ever since and now it focuses on four key areas – education, health and wellbeing, employability and healthy relationships.

But the services are costly to run at £3m a year and the charity wants businesses to get involved so they can provide their much-needed support for more people.

Sara Eltman, head of income and partnerships at the centre, said: “With increasing demand for our services the charity urgently needs to raise funds so we can develop them and provide support for the many disadvantaged and vulnerable children, young people and families that need us across Kirklees and surrounding areas.

“We are therefore seeking support from the local business community and are keen to speak to anyone who may be interested in finding out more about opportunities to work in partnership with the charity.”

Sara Eltman – head of income and partnerships at the Yorkshire Children’s Centre

The Yorkshire Children’s Centre (YCC) began as the National Children’s Centre and was founded in 1974 by pioneering Huddersfield educationalist Brian Jackson who realised that in the early 1970s many parents used unregistered ‘back street’ childminders to care for their children while they worked. This meant the youngsters were often in overcrowded and cramped rooms, staying indoors all day with few toys or activities.

Before the centre opened, only 1% of registered childminders received any form of training and support. After just 12 months of opening, every registered childminder in Huddersfield had attended at least one course and so had many unregistered minders.

Brian and the charity’s first project action officer, Hazel Wigmore, greatly expanded the services over the next few years but tragically Brian Jackson collapsed and died aged just 50 in Huddersfield in July 1983 while taking part in a five-mile run to raise funds for the centre.

The charity is based in Brian Jackson House on New North Parade just above Huddersfield Railway Station and has taken the work he inspired to new levels to meet society’s ever-changing demands.

It’s a regional charity that supports vulnerable and disadvantaged children, young people and their families throughout Kirklees and surrounding areas.

They do this in four ways that are often interlinked.

Education: Brian Jackson colleges in Huddersfield and Heckmondwike provide education for up to 80 young people aged 13-16 who have social, emotional and mental health difficulties and have been permanently excluded or are at risk of permanent exclusion from mainstream schools.

The aim is to promote inclusion, raise standards of behaviour and achievement so the young people can achieve their full potential in life. Courses include academic studies such as GCSE maths and English and BTEC applied science along with vocational training for motor vehicle maintenance, food technology, health, beauty and sports.

It can have great results. One pupil said: “The staff at the college have inspired and encouraged me to be the person I am today. Throughout the two years of being here I’ve displayed a lot of bad behaviour and they have helped me grow out of that person I was.

“Due to circumstances at home I used to enter school in a bad mood every day and over a four-month period I came out of that mood and realised I needed the help the staff provided.”

Year 5 Kirklees pupils attending a safety rangers accident prevent event organised by the Yorkshire Children’s Centre

Employability: The charity works with some of the most disadvantaged people in Kirklees to try to get them into training or work. It focuses on supporting and helping people with multiple and complex barriers to actively seeking employment, education, or training such as mental health difficulties, disability, lack of confidence, limited English language skills, addiction problems, lack of childcare or they may be excluded because they don’t have computer and other digital skills.

The charity can help them to overcome all these issues and more including developing new skills through training, work placements and volunteering and help preparing for work such as writing CVs, interview skills, job searching and approaching employers.

The charity was contacted by a single mum with three children who suffered with anxiety to the point where she couldn’t leave her house or take her children to school, hadn’t worked for 12 years and lacked self-confidence.

With the support of the charity’s family mentor she attended appointments and events with her children, helping her to gain more self-confidence. The mentor helped her to register for a maths and English course and a money management course. A week later she applied for a mental health assistant role at a care home and was offered the job.

The mum said: “What the charity has done for me has changed my life forever.”

Healthy Relationships: The YCC promotes healthy relationships at its child contact centres, support parents, grandparents or other family members who are no longer living with their children or there has been a breakdown in family relationships. The emphasis here is making the time a positive experience for the children.

Families can get this service free if they are referred via a social worker, solicitor, family mediator, CAFCASS family court advisor or another professional and the service is often used where there are ongoing court proceedings, the child is looked after by local authorities, a family needs to rebuild its relationships or parents need help with parenting skills.

The charity is trying to raise more money so families can refer themselves to the service, especially those who simply can’t afford to pay a fee.

Health and Wellbeing: As part of a scheme called Thriving Kirklees involving several organisations, the YCC provides a range of services including Safety in the Home and Safety Rangers for school children. It also offers health, nutrition and wellbeing support to families in need.

Anyone who can help the charity should email Sara at

* Written by former Huddersfield Examiner Head of Content ANDY HIRST who runs his own Yorkshire freelance journalism agency AH! PR ( specialising in press releases, blogging and copywriting.