A beacon of hope in the Borders

Alison Todd

In January I visited the Scottish Borders to find out more about our work in the area.  With me was a member of the  of the Children 1st Board.  We came away, as we always do when visiting Children 1st local teams, with an amazing insight into how we’re improving children and families’ lives.

In Scottish Borders we support children and adults to recover from abuse.  Much of that work is in the context of domestic abuse, which we know for children who witness it is traumatising in itself.

I was struck by the humility of our staff.  They feel privileged to share in the lives of vulnerable children and families; lives that are often hidden from the view of wider society.  It’s not to diminish the well reported suffering endured by children and families overseas to say that in Scotland there are also very many families who are marginalised, affected by poverty, and whose needs are often overlooked.

In the Borders, as in many other parts of Scotland, Children 1st has workers skilled at supporting traumatised children and families to express their feelings and make sense of what has happened to them.  But we also offer something more – a commitment to stick with children and families for as long as they need support.  That is something that few others in Scotland, if any, are able to offer. And for me it’s what makes the critical difference - because unless our relationships with children and families are based on trust, the chances of us successfully supporting their recovery are minimal.  My ambition is for recovery support such as Children 1st provides to be widely available in every Scottish local authority area.

I was particularly impressed by how Children 1st workers support children who are to give evidence in court in cases that involve the person who has perpetrated the abuse that’s affected them.  We help them to prepare, and to find strength for the experience, which will often involve reliving the trauma they’ve been through.

I came away from the Borders more determined than ever to speak up about the needs of vulnerable children and families, and what must change if Scotland is to meet them in full.  And I know that our Children 1st Board members too gained insight and inspiration from visits such as this that help them to do the best job they can.