Community hero's appointment with the PM

IPSWICH: An inspirational community figure is set to speak at a national conference following a special meeting with the Prime Minister, it emerged today.

IPSWICH: An inspirational community figure is set to speak at a national conference following a special meeting with the Prime Minister, it emerged today.

Sandra Shears, manager of the Tree House and Ravenswood Children's Centres in Ipswich, was invited to join in a two-hour reception for community leaders at Downing Street, where she got the chance to talk to Gordon Brown about the work carried out in Suffolk.

Mrs Shears, who is employed by Suffolk Community Healthcare, was instrumental in establishing the county's first Sure Start Children's Centre eight years ago. Since then, a further 34 centres have opened across Suffolk, providing parents of children up to the age of five with a one-stop-shop where they can get advice on issues including breastfeeding, nutrition, and ante and post natal care.

Following her visit to Number Ten, she has been invited to speak at a national conference in February on the impact children's centres can have on reducing health inequalities.

Mrs Shears, who attended the reception alongside Ipswich MP Chris Mole, said: “Visiting Number Ten and meeting the Prime Minister was an absolutely amazing experience.

“I discussed child development with the Prime Minister, who told me he felt the first 48 months of a child's life were the most important. I told him about some of the work we are doing in Suffolk, alongside our partners in the local authority, voluntary sector and across the health service, to make sure our services are easily available to those people who need them the most.

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“It was an honour to have been invited, and it felt like a tribute to all of the work the staff across Suffolk have done over the past few years.”

Suffolk County councillor Graham Newman said: “I would like to thank Sandra for all her hard work which has helped to provide excellent services to over 1,000 Suffolk families each month.”

Do you want to tell us about an inspirational leader in the community? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk.