That Friday feeling comes to Glasgow Gorbals

When Children 1st starts work with a child or family it’s because they are going through difficult times and we believe we can help. Our family support workers focus on enabling them to cope better, to feel more included, and to benefit from other support that’s out there. But obvious as that approach seems, we wondered if sometimes it might be better to do things differently?

What if, instead of starting by looking at what help a family needs, we look at their strengths and built on these? What if we identified the strengths in a community and built on them, to make it a better place for children? Now, thanks to a pioneering Children 1st project in Glasgow Gorbals, we’re finding out.

Mums in the Friday Group meet weekly with big ambitions; to become a voice in the community, to develop confidence to influencing decision making, and to make the Gorbals a better and safer place for children.

Children 1st Community Engagement workers Theresa Marsili (left) and Aileen Kenny (right)

Project worker Aileen Kenny says: “The biggest strength of any community is its people. So we wanted to give parents who were isolated an opportunity to become more involved, less isolated and have a voice. We floated the idea of a group throughout the local nurseries and schools. The mums came forward because we weren’t telling them how it would be. We said ‘tell us what you like about the Gorbals, what should change, what help you need to make change it - and we’ll help you to make it happen.’

“At first some lacked confidence even to make eye contact. A few had some experience of consultations in the community, but had felt unable to speak up. Yet after just a few weeks with the group their confidence levels were higher. They were ready to get more involved, to the extent that they were booking meeting rooms, getting small grants, and even asking me to take a back seat! They formed friendships and were no longer isolated - two even discovered they lived in the same tower block.”

Part of Aileen’s role is to help group members reflect on their journey and to speak up on issues within their community. For example a local nursery kept hens and a cockerel. “One mum said that every morning her family had a rude awakening because this cockerel crowed at 5:30am. Before joining the group she lacked confidence to speak up or do anything. Thanks to the group found the confidence to explain to the nursery that it was a problem.”

Group members are showing they are serious about changing the community.

“The mums have run focus groups with school pupils to find out what they think needs done to make the area safer, and a better place, for children. They’ve met with community planning professionals to find out how the system works and how they can have more say in local decisions. And they’re planning an information day to tell other parents and carers they know are isolated what can happen if they come together,” Aileen adds. “Working to their strengths has empowered them to be more active in their community.”