A PARENT and toddler group in Oxford that provides a 'lifeline' to families has been given a boost as part of a competition run in the Oxford Mail.

Winners at Wood Farm Parent and Toddler group were chosen after receiving heartfelt nominations explaining why the group needs the £500 prize in the the Oxford Community Chest .

Leaders say the toddler group, which runs out of the Youth Centre on the estate, is in desperate need of funding and has seen an increase in families using the service after childrens' centres in the area closed following funding cuts.

The group offers 0-5 year-olds a chance to play and become creative.

Belinda House, from Headington, has been running the group for 17 of the 20 years it has been open and said she was overjoyed with the cash for the centre, which also provides a social setting for many isolated parents.

She said: "I just love working with the children, it's part of my life. It's for the adults just as much as it is for kids.

"There's lots of multicultural groups, they come to me, one lady came from Sweden, one from India, they don't know a single soul, so it's so nice that my group can help them make friends."

Though the group is open four days a week, Ms House said she gets between 70 and 90 people coming in.

She added the money 'means a lot to her' and that she will use it to buy resources for the centre like toys, equipment and arts and crafts.

One of the nominations came from mum Hayley Nash, who is raising three children with special educational needs.

She said: "I tried a variety of organisations and groups with my children and this was the only place I felt truly comfortable and cared for, with the friends I made and my children made still being in our lives today."

Another nomination, from Marisa Corbett, said: "I have been attending Wood Farm for 16 years. My three daughters attended throughout these years. It is a lifeline for families, not only from the Wood Farm estate, but from surrounding areas. The group is really struggling to keep its head above water because there is only so much fundraising you can do.

"Belinda is finding it very hard to get any kind of funding, i.e small grants, and has received knock backs this year due to other organisations needing funding. I nominate this group as it is the only parent and toddler group for miles and £500 would be fantastic.".

Elaine Stratford, Sales and Marketing Director from competition sponsor Taylor Wimpey Oxfordshire, said: “As a local housebuilder, we’re keen to support worthy causes within the local community.

"We’re therefore delighted that Wood Farm Parent and Toddler Group, which supports young families in the area, has won this funding through our Community Chest scheme.”