A problem needn't become a crisis

Children 1st supports families across Edinburgh through difficult times. Local manager Gary Dewar explains.

Our job is to make sure parents and carers in Edinburgh who are struggling to cope get the support they need. Giving help early – before problems become crises – maximises children’s chances in life. And their earliest years are often when family stresses start to build. That’s why we now focus on families with children from birth to age five. 

Of course every age and stage is important. But by concentrating on children’s early years we build specialist expertise and avoid duplicating what others are doing to support families in the city.

Here’s an example. A mum, Dawn*, was experiencing mental health difficulties that made it hard for her to care for her four year old James*. There had been lots of upheaval and James had become unsettled and anxious. He would lash out and spit at others. 

Dawn agreed to be supported by Children 1st. She found it hard to do things that other parents find easy: getting down on the floor and playing with James, being curious about his world. Our worker helped Dawn do that; by modelling how to play, by talking through her relationship with James, by being there to listen. 

We also helped Dawn to benefit from mental health services. It’s common for parents with mental health issues to be unable to make best use of these: they might have had a bad experience with health professionals in the past, lack self confidence, worry about being stigmatised, or get put off by barriers around transport, cost and opening hours.

There’s been a huge improvement. Dawn is now getting consistent mental health support. James says he feels safe and secure at home. The school has told us he’s thriving and proving a very able pupil. And James and Dawn’s relationship is much better. Our work with the family is complete.

There’s just one exception to our early-years focus, and that is where families that are under stress because of housing problems. There, thanks to our partnership with Shelter, we can work with families up until children reach age 11.