Professor pulls on his hiking boots

PROFESSOR of social work Paul Bywaters is stepping out for his beliefs by tackling a 90-mile hill-climbing hike in aid of family counselling.

Paul, aged 63, is convinced that the first five years of children’s lives are vital to their future development. It’s also the very time when parents may be in need of extra support. He’s glad Warwickshire County Council is continuing to financially back six family centres in Leamington and Warwick run by the charity Action for Children.

But budgets have been reduced and so there is no longer any money to offer the free counselling service which can help with advice on everything from debts to difficult family relationships.

That’s why Paul is pulling on his boots and appealing for sponsorship for his six-day hike through the Peak District starting on May 21.

He said: “I believe giving every child the best possible start in life is the most important investment in the future our society could make.

“But as the government isn’t fully-funding children’s centres, I feel I have to do something to keep these services going.”

Last year Paul was at the forefront of the campaign to save the Surestart centres in Lillington, Whitnash, Sydenham and Dale Street, Leamington, along with Westgate and Newburgh in Warwick at a time when the county council was forced to make drastic budget cuts.

His efforts highlighted the need for the centres but some cuts were inevitable and the Time for Change counselling service is one of them.

Nobody wants to see it go, especially Olwyn Ditchburn, the programme manager for all six centres who last year was made MBE for her outstanding work with young families in Leamington and Warwick.

She said: “We do hope people will sponsor Paul because for the past seven years counselling has always been an important aspect of the work of our centres in Leamington and Warwick West.

“Giving new parents the emotional support they need, free of charge, when they need it, pays huge dividends for their babies and young children. Many mums tell us they had no idea of the benefits counselling can bring and how much more settled their families are as a result.”

Anyone willing to sponsor Paul or who wants to find out more about family centres in Leamington and Warwick can ring 337506 or visit