WEST Dorset’s MP Oliver Letwin has officially opened a new centre that aims to help families and their children.

The Dorchester West Children’s Centre Outreach at Maiden Newton was opened at the site of Greenford CE Primary School.

Outreach centres, run by Dorset County Council, are designed to offer advice and support to families with children up to the age of five and act as a ‘one stop shops’ for parents.

The county council’s cabinet member for children’s services Toni Coombs cut a cake to mark the occasion alongside county councillors Jill Haynes and Rebecca Knox.

Children from the Greenford School also sang Christmas carols at the event.

Mr Letwin said it was a ‘delight’ to do the honours of opening the centre.

He said: “Trying to help people that have difficulties one way or another with their children when they first arrive is incredibly important both for the parents and for the children.

“The more people look into this, the more important it turns out to be.

“Having a base near to where people are in Maiden Newton is also very important.

“It’s a place where all the different people who are helping – the health visitors and the social workers and so on – can actually talk to one another so there’s proper communication between them.”

He added: “Everyone was in high spirits and it was a delight to open it.”

A county council spokesman said the centres ‘help parents by offering a ‘wide range’ of free services such as family activities, parenting support and links to health services.

She added that Dorset county council’s children’s centres act as ‘one-stop shops for families’.

Coun Knox said the opening was well attended which was ‘great to see’.

She said: “I think it’s really important that all the services that young mums need are under just one roof.

“It’s a great way of going forward and it’s where they want it rather than having to travel quite a distance.

“This time it’s actually on their doorstep so they can actually see the services that are being provided.”

She added: “It was good to see the mums and the children together and there was a real community spirit.

“It’s not only a good way for them to get the advice they need but it’s good for them to chat amongst themselves.”

During the celebrations staff also unveiled a collage of local children’s handprints in memory of Maryanne Rimer who was the local health visitor for many years until she passed away last year.