Making a difference for parents and carers
ParentLine Scotland is the national helpline, email and web-chat service for anyone caring for or concerned about a child. Manager Alan Forgie explains the difference it’s making to children and families across Scotland.
Each spring, as one financial year ends and another begins, the ParentLine team reflects on the previous 12 months; the issues callers have raised, and our experience of helping them. What have we learned this time?
Most of the calls we take continue to be about family relationships. In particular we’re asked to give advice and support with regard to separation and divorce. When dads call us, it’s often because they are desperate to keep in contact with their children after a break-up. But we also get calls from mums saying that their ex-partner doesn’t care about the children, and won’t commit even to taking them once a week.
Children’s behaviour is also high on the list of reasons why people get in touch. We talk parents and carers through what’s bothering them. Often with our help they are able to spot issues underlying a child’s behaviour that they’ve missed, and to begin to address them.
We hear daily how complex family life in Scotland has become; step families, grannies with babies, pretty much any family make up you can imagine. Callers often have many, not just one, issue they want help with. That’s one reason why uptake of our call-back service, involving a series of supportive calls over a period, has more than doubled in the year – and is receiving great feedback.
Many kinship care families, in which extended family members or family friends are caring for a child that can no longer live with his or her parents, are turning to us for support. Most want practical advice, for example to maximise their income or get the housing they need. But frequently they need emotional support too; someone to speak to when at the end of their tether. Many kinship carers are older, and can be caring for child while coping with ill health or a disability. Often they will have become a kinship carer because of complexities in their own child’s circumstances, and may need support to come to terms with that.
This year our service to kinship carers has been enhanced by three new dedicated Children 1st support projects; in Moray, East Lothian and Ayrshire. We’re referring kinship carers who call us from these areas to them, and in turn they are making use of our National Kinship Care helpline as a complement to the support they provide locally.
While mostly we help ordinary parents with everyday problems, at all times we’re ready to advise with more serious concerns about children. If someone believes a child is in immediate danger they should always call the police. But where it’s not so clear cut we’re a useful sounding board, and can point people the right direction. Callers don’t need to give identifying details, so they can rehearse a course of action with us without worrying it will spin outwith their control.
My ambition for ParentLine over the next 12 months is that we make a difference for even more parents and carers. Children 1st family support and kinship care teams locally are increasingly using us to complement the support they offer, so why not also third sector and public sector organisations generally? If you’re a professional working a family and feel a bit of telephone support between the times you are with them would be valuable, just give us a call.