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Cost of living: Can you afford to take your children out?

Joanne smiling
Joanne opened Role Play Lane after wanting to give more back to the parents [BBC]

The cost of living crisis has left many people making tough decisions about how to spend their money.

For parents of younger children, the cost of trips and activities can be considerable.

Play centre owner Joanne Baldock, 43, is feeling the squeeze too and said she might have to close her business.

She said she had run out of ideas after already cutting prices to a discount and running funded sessions to help people who are struggling.

Joanne opened Role Play Lane in Pontypridd, Rhondda Cynon Taf, five years ago.

She turned the play centre into a not-for-profit business two years ago due to the pandemic, the cost of living crisis and wanting to give back to the community.

But due to rent, utility bills and the minimum wage rising, she had to reduce staff hours and opening times.

Joanne, a mother of three, also works as a teaching assistant alongside running the business.

"School doesn't suit everybody so having a resource like this is beneficial in so many ways," she said of her business.

"It's all to do with children's development - we do so many different types of sessions to help this from sensory, cooking activities, crafts and ALN [additional learning needs] sessions."

Children's play ice cream shop
Joanne said she would love to be able to spend more money on new resources but cannot afford to [BBC]

Joanne said she had become stressed about the future of the business.

She has applied for numerous different types of funding but said she had been turned down for one already.

"It's really important to keep us here and get the support we need, as it's so beneficial to the children," she said.

Joanne is now looking for volunteers to help and is also asking people to fill in a questionnaire to help with funding applications.

Laura and her daughter smiling
Laura Stokes likes to bring her daughter to the funded sessions [BBC]

Laura Stokes, 33, from Hawthorn in Pontypridd, likes to come to the play centre with her daughter because she thinks it is different from other places around the area.

"We have lots of soft play and things like that but she does really enjoy the dance and singing classes, and will ask if she's coming every week," said Laura.

"Everything has gone up and I work part-time, so while I'm off with her I do like to fill it with fun things to do. But while everything is going up it does cost a lot, so funded sessions help."

Another mum from Cardiff, who wanted to remain anonymous, said she felt lucky to have a roof over her head.

"I have sold my car and jewellery to be able to give our children the best," she said.

"I believe the government need to step in. We should never be in a situation again where children can't socialise. Parents can't teach extra skills at home as they are working so much."

Talia McMillian decided to start an Instagram account recommending a range of things to do with children, from places that are free to places that are more expensive.

"There are so many walks and free entry places that are lovely, but typically we get a lot of rain so everyone seeks something indoors," she said.

"That said, the majority of places we visit now charge parking or have a café so you know you're going to be spending something.

"I've been visiting lots of the same places for years and it's crazy to see the difference in prices now, and you've got some that charge for adults and even very young babies."

The Welsh government said: "We recognise the importance of quality and affordable childcare, and are investing over £100m through our Flying Start and Childcare Offer programmes.

"Our Childcare Offer also provides 30 hours of funded childcare a week, for up to 48 weeks a year, for three and four-year-olds of eligible parents, including those in education or training.

"We are also supporting the childcare sector by investing £70m in capital grants for providers as well as funding for staff training and development."