Evolving in Edinburgh to help families thrive

Children 1st supports families across Edinburgh through difficult times. Local manager Gary Dewar explains how our work in the city is evolving.

How we support families is constantly developing as our understanding of their needs improves, and as contexts change. So when our Bfriends project ended last year, it didn’t mean that we were no longer offering volunteer befriending. Rather we had taken a decision to broaden the contribution of volunteers so we could make a bigger difference.  Every child is part of a web of family relationships, so we can often do more good by extending volunteer support to mum, dad, sister, brother and so on.

Our context is one of ongoing strain on public sector finances, so a big priority is making sure the benefits of the family support work aren’t overlooked as budgets are cut. Prevention is always better, and usually cheaper in the long-run, than cure. Right now the council is realigning its services for families around neighbourhoods, so we’re also making sure we have Children 1st staff allocated to each of these, building relationships with key players and tuning-in to local needs.

One fantastic local relationship we have is with Gilmerton Early Years Centre, with whom we run a young parents group. The parents set the agenda, and have benefited from everything from baby massage to cookery classes. They can also get advice on topics such as benefits and housing.

The group is firmly rooted in the local community, and through it parents are gaining confidence and self-esteem.

One mum said: “I was really anxious when my kid was born. But the group’s helped me loads with my anxiety and I love coming every week.”

And a worker at the Centre told us that the group gives the parents “a place to go where they feel accepted, and where they can develop positively as parents and as people.”

Edinburgh is prosperous and internationally important. But many families are little more than bystanders to all of this – aware of the city’s rich cultural life but because of poverty, poor health, a whole range of issues – unable to participate.

Children 1st is helping to make it a place that every child and family can thrive in.