Opening doors for families in Dundee

Children 1st local manager Anita Roweth explains how our work in Dundee is making a difference to children and families.

With a £1 billion redevelopment of its waterfront underway, Dundee will soon be visually transformed. But there’s another side the city, one few visitors ever see. Many children and families live in poverty and deprivation. Rates of drug and alcohol misuse are the second highest for Scotland. Too many Dundee children fail to reach their potential at school.

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Children 1st has a long track-record of successfully supporting Dundee families through such difficulties. But we wondered: are we doing enough to reach families that are off-the-radar of children’s welfare professionals? That question prompted us to join forces with Dundee’s Alcohol and Drug Partnership – to go out to where vulnerable families are, rather than wait for them to be referred to us.

Each week you’ll find us at a community centre and at a Boots pharmacy. Let’s say that today we’re in Boots with our Children 1st display. A mum comes in to collect a methadone prescription and we get chatting. She’s a single parent with two pre-school children. She’s not in work and money is tight. She’s finding it hard to manage her young family and her drug misuse. But she’s scared that if she asks for help, it might trigger a process that leads to her children being taken away.

We tell her about the various ways we could make a difference – from home visits to help her have more fun and less stress with the children, to help accessing a local food bank. Being part of the Dundee Early Intervention Team (DEIT) alongside other children’s charities we’re well placed to make sure she’s supported before her family’s problems become crises.

We spend one day a week at each of our community hubs. But on other days our partner organisations are there, and they put us in contact with families they speak to who could benefit from our support. That works both ways, so if parents or carers we talk to need specialist advice on topics such as benefits and housing, we can ensure they get it.

So far the feedback has been great – from the Boots branch and the community centre, from our partners and, critically, from the families we’ve reached. Before, they might have had to knock on half a dozen doors to get the package of support they need. Now it’s just one door, and they find it open with a friendly welcome at a place they were going to anyway.