Children’s charity Safe Families for Children celebrated seeing their volunteer support improve the lives of 5000 children across England.
The charity, which aims to prevent children from needlessly having to go into the care system, has been working with Manchester City local authority since 2016 and has benefitted 1609 children in the North West, 182 of these in Manchester. Children and their parents/carers are supported by volunteers from the local community who have been recruited and trained by the charity.
The young charity has seen skyrocketing growth nationally, from benefiting 233 children between April 2013-2014 when the charity was founded, to benefiting 1979 children between April 2016-2017 and a projected 2600 between April 2017-2018. The charity expects to benefit 3500 children in the coming financial year between April 2018-2019.
Amongst other benefits, volunteer support was found to improve positive parenting. Good parenting is at the heart of children’s wellbeing and development. When a parent’s own wellbeing is poor then they can struggle to care for their children. When parents are unwell or unable to cope, children often suffer.
Government statistics show that as of March 2017 over 25% of children in need were assessed as being in a family in acute stress or dysfunction. Nearly 40% of children in need were impacted by mental health, either the mental health of the child or of other adults in the family/household, and almost 11% of children in need were effected by disability or illness within the family. The number of children who were the subject of a child protection plan has increased from 50,310 in 2016 to 51,080 in 2017, an increase of 1.5%.Correspondingly, the number of looked after children has continued to rise over the last nine years. At 31 March 2017 there were 72,670 looked after children, an increase of 3% on 2016.
Keith Danby, Chief Executive of Safe Families for Children said: “The increase in children becoming looked after is recognised as a growing crisis by many in the care sector. It’s generally agreed that some urgent action must be taken. We believe that volunteer support from the community can go a long way to stabilising family situations in times of acute stress or dysfunction. We’ve seen so many families benefit from having community support and respite when they are at their wit’s end.”
Manchester mum of three, Cheryl Williams, was suffering with a trapped nerve during her third pregnancy. After the baby’s birth an operation on her disk was necessary and left Cheryl house-bound during recovery and unable to go out with the children.
With Cheryl’s husband working during the day and the children on their summer holidays, Cheryl was finding it difficult until she came across Safe Families for Children. A Family Friend volunteer was found by the charity for her oldest daughter, Bailey, to take her out on day trips so she could get out of the house during the summer holidays.
“It’s eased a worry of worrying about Bailey and Ivy,” says Cheryl. “It’s nice for them to get out and enjoy and experience things. It’s a big relief knowing she’s got support out there.”
Chief Executive of the charity, Keith Danby said: “The difference that can be made in the life of a child is always motivating. What we do is simple, just people helping people, but early intervention is key to helping families and preventing situations from escalating to such a point that a child has to be taken into care.”
(Image: Cheryl Williams)