We spoke to Laura Preston, a Programme Coordinator at Family Action Islington. (You can read about Laura’s experience as Programme Coordinator here).
Family Action’s Children and Families Services work with children, young people, parents, carers, and the wider family network, to ensure families are able to realise their full potential and all members are able to thrive.
Family Action strives to support stable, positive family networks, tackling some of the most complex and difficult issues facing families today. This includes financial hardship, mental health problems, social isolation, learning disabilities, domestic abuse, and substance misuse and alcohol problems. These issues can affect the stability of family life, and have a significant impact on the health, wellbeing and development of all family members. Their services include intensive family support, specialist therapeutic work, conflict management and relationship support, and advice and wellbeing services.
One of these services is Family Saturdays funded by Islington Giving. It is for parents of children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), aged 0-5 years. It reduces isolation by creating a safe space for parents to meet at the weekend and receive support. Parents can discuss their concerns, and a fortnightly information-based coffee morning is held to provide parents with advice and inform them of other services. Parents enjoy a weekly communal lunch, offering the chance to socialise with other families and staff, along with other family-centred activities that aim to improve parent-child relationships, including ‘Special yoga’, ‘Tip Toe dance’ sessions and theatre trips.
“Thanks to the Islington Giving funding, Family Saturdays has changed the lives of parents in many ways over the past 6 months”. Laura Preston – Family Action Islington
Helena* joined Family Saturdays, in October 2016, when struggling to cope with her children’s addional behavioural challenges. They are a lone-parent family with three children (two with SEND). She did not feel ready to return to employment due to her eldest child’s behavior and her youngest’s severe medical needs.
Helena now regularly attends coffee mornings, and has worked with Family Action staff to learn behavioural management techniques and receive help dealing with housing and benefit- issues. She is pleased to have Family Saturdays to come to with her children at the weekend and learn from other parents involved with the project. Helena has been connected with The Parent House, through a Family Saturdays coffee morning, where she joined a ‘Working with children’ training course and is now looking for a voluntary placement in local schools. This will give her first-hand experience, to help lead to paid employment. Her life has changed, in less than a year, and she tells Family Action she is now very excited about her future.
Family Action believes that families facing these difficulties should have the support they need to become stronger, happier and healthier. With the right kind of support, families can overcome their difficulties and find hope for a brighter future.
*Helena is not her real name.