WHEN the Bishop of Oxford paid £100 to fund a support worker for Oxford, he would hardly have expected what his gesture would lead to.

His desire to create an organisation which would provide guidance and protection for young children led to what is now known as Parents And Children Together being established and the Oxford-based charity last week celebrated its 100th birthday at Dorchester Abbey.

The Countess of Wessex helped bury a time capsule in the grounds of the abbey when she visited last week to recognise the work of the charity and meet members who were celebrating the milestone.

The charity’s centenary was officially in 2011, but since then it has been gathering drawings, paintings, handprints, posters, and even two Oxford Mail articles to bury.

A visit from the Queen’s daughter-in-law provided a fitting occasion to mark the burial of the capsule.

Banbury Cake:

Abbie and Alec Kent

Children from Dorchester St Birinus School waved their flags as she stepped from the blue Land Rover and made her way to the abbey.

PACT chief executive Jan Fishwick said: “The day was celebrating the work of PACT and burying a time capsule which marks our centenary year. We were thrilled to have the Countess of Wessex taking an interest in the work we do.

“We had children who have been adopted and children who have been helped by what we do and some of the projects we run.”

Two of those children were seven-year-old Alec and his sister Abbie, eight.

Their mum Claire Kent, from Wantage, said her children had hugely benefitted from PACT’s work. They took part in the charity’s Bounce Back 4 Kids project.

Mrs Kent, 35, who works at the Cancer Research shop in Didcot, signed up her son and daughter to take part in the project. Alec and Abbie became unsettled and aggressive after she left her husband and their father.

She said: “It came to the point that I had to leave. We left with nothing on Christmas Eve with just the clothes we were wearing.

“We went to my mum’s in Abingdon and she bought them some Christmas presents.”

Abbie finished the 10-week project last year while Alec finished it this month.

Banbury Cake:

PACT was founded by the then Bishop of Oxford Francis Paget who was passionate about helping vulnerable families

The programme uses arts and play therapy to help children express their feelings and come to terms with family breakdowns.

Alec and Abbie met the Countess of Wessex during a workshop on healing mental wounds as well as physical ones at Dorchester Abbey. Abbie said: “I liked meeting her.”

Mrs Kent – who is now divorced –added: “They thought the reason they didn’t see their dad anymore was because they were bad.

“But the project helped them come to terms with their feelings and realise it wasn’t their fault.

“I could definitely see the difference in them – they stopped being so angry and tense, they’ve been liberated.”

PACT ambassador Felicity Dick, who runs the course, said: “It is one of our programmes which we have run for four years in groups all across Oxfordshire in community centres and children’s centres.”

Children are usually referred by their teachers or social workers.

All children deserve the best start in life - CEO

Parents And Children Together is now more than 100 years old and, writes chief executive Jan Fishwick, although our services have changed and adapted with the times, the core aim to build and strengthen families remains the focus of everything we do.

Today PACT is one of the UK’s leading voluntary adoption agencies – last year we placed more than 100 children with secure and loving families.

Our other work is in the community – we run Alana House - a women’s community project in Reading, addressing the needs of vulnerable women and women who are involved with the Criminal Justice System.

We also support children who have been affected by domestic abuse through our Bounce Back 4 Kids programme.

For my entire career I have worked with children and families, initially in a local authority setting. When I came to PACT six years ago I was excited to be able to deliver preventative services as well as protect children through fostering and adoption and to respond to the changing political landscape.

I am full of admiration for all PACT families who have adopted or fostered children. All children deserve the best start in life, to have a secure a loving family environment, and to feel safe and wanted.

With over 6,000 children in care in the UK today, we need more families to make a difference and change their lives for the better.

Banbury Cake:

PACT chief executive Jan Fishwick

'PACT really helped us'

Sarah and Tony Harris, from Goring, adopted Nicheala as their daughter five years ago.

Mrs Harris said: “She was only one and didn’t know what was going on, she didn’t understand and it was difficult at times because she was unsettled.
“But PACT really helped us work through it and still support us today. She’s fantastic, a lively happy little girl.”
Nicheala, now six years old, settled in to become part of the family.
Brother Theo, eight, said that he likes playing games with her.