A virtual Q&A with children 1st
On the 16th of June, along with three of my frontline colleagues, I hosted a conversation about the impact of the coronavirus crisis on children and families across Scotland and shared some insights about how Children 1st have responded.
Our purpose, to keep children safe at home by giving their families the practical, emotional and financial support to keep children protected from harm, has never been more important. Many more families are reaching out for support as they struggle to cope. Below I introduce the colleagues who joined me to let you hear more about our work and how we are there for children and their families during this incredibly hard time.
Leana Grant, works alongside families and communities in Irvine. Leana is passionate about keeping families together and communities connected and strong. Through the coronavirus lockdown, Leana has been leading our local team and making sure that children know we are here for them; sending packages with letters, games, activities and school work and making sure children have access to devices so they can connect with us and keep up with school.
The team offer face to face reassurance to children who are anxious, helping them talk through their worries and offering a warm, friendly and kind face, keeping our strong relationships alive. The team also deliver much needed essential food and activities to children’s families, taking away some of the financial worries and pressure off parents and carers who are often isolated, coping alone and missing their usual supports. Many of the families the team support are really struggling to hold things together and in some cases relationships are at risk of breaking down. Families are telling Leana that our ongoing support through the crisis is quite simply a lifeline – it is the only thing that is helping them stay together and get through it.
In East Lothian Marion Harkin supports families to have a say in formal meetings about major decisions affecting their children’s care, wellbeing and protection. We use an approach called Family Group Decision Making and these meetings help parents, carers and extended family members get involved, offer their views and ideas to help children be safer. Marion helps families create their own plans and solutions and supports them to share these plans with other professionals involved. Often parents who have experienced abuse or trauma in their own childhood struggle to cope in professional meetings; they say the meetings make them feel powerless and that they don’t believe they are listened to.
Through Family Group Decision Meetings Marion supports families to speak up and makes sure their voices and views are heard and respected. During coronavirus and the lockdown families have been unable to be present in meetings because of restrictions. Marion has helped families connect virtually to hold meetings and develop their own plans which have then been shared with professionals. This has helped many children stay safe at home with their own families rather than having to be looked after by local authorities.
Lisa McNaughtan is a specialist in money and debt advice; she joined Children 1st two years ago to help families living in poverty. Before coronavirus Lisa was providing money advice to families in their own homes and local communities. Lisa focusses on gaining trust and building a strong relationship with parents and carers, helping them overcome embarrassment about their financial difficulties so they can open up and get the help they need. She helps them manage overwhelming levels of debt, access the financial support they are entitled to and makes sure they have all the support they need to negotiate with lenders. She offers kind advice and support to help make sure families have enough money to manage and look after their children, keep food on the table and a roof over their heads.
Since lockdown Lisa and her colleagues are providing financial help and advice to families online and over the phone through Children 1st Parentline. She offers practical help with bills and debt as well as the emotional support needed to brave money worries. As the economy changes and debt lenders remove payment holidays, debt worries will multiply and more children and families will face poverty. Lisa and her colleagues will be here to help, but we are seeing unprecedented level of need and families need many more people like Lisa who combine expert knowledge and experience with an understanding of the impact of money worries on people’s emotional and physical health.
Leana, Marion and Lisa share my passion for working alongside families and supporting them to navigate through incredibly difficult circumstances to make life better for their children. We have launched our Spring Appeal to raise the much-needed funds to continue this support. Through our question and answer session we want to offer you the chance to ask questions and to hear more about our work. To hear about how we spend the money we raise and how it will make a difference to children and families who are living through the most difficult of circumstances in one of the most challenging times in all of our lives.
To take part in our Q&A, simply email your question to firstname.lastname@example.org by Tuesday 9 June 2020. I look forward to meeting and speaking with you then. Thank you.