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Supporting Families, Changing Lives...
Tuesday 31st May, 2011

Service provide hope to parents and carers struggling to cope

At one time Sarah admits she was in a ‘very dark place’. The Wigan mother-of-three was failing as a parent. In the grip of depression; her children the subject to a child protection plan – things where looking bleak.

“I knew what I needed to do to improve my family life,” says the 32 year-old. “But I didn’t have the skills or the support. I avoided situations and buried my head in the sand. I had no confidence in myself as a parent.”

Sarah is not her real name but her story is one familiar to a Wigan Council-backed team who are helping to make a real difference to family life in our borough.

Sarah and others like her have benefitted from the help, support and advice offered by the council’s Family Intervention Project or FIP for short.

The FIP has been running for 18 months and during that time has helped more than 57 families find hope for the future. The project is run on behalf of the council by national children’s charity Action For Children and provides intensive parenting and support to help people make the positive changes they need to.

John Rotherham, Action for Children project manager at the FIP, explains: “We are committed to improving the quality of relationships between parents and carers, children and other family members.

“Once a family is referred to the service they will be assigned a Parenting Worker, who will meet with them in a place that is most comfortable to the family. It could be a children’s centre, school or health centre, it could even be the family home.

“We work with the family and look at a whole range of issues that may be affecting them from domestic violence to alcohol and substance misuse, anti-social behaviour and general issues of parenting support.

“From here we will draw up an action plan which at its heart has individual members of the family supporting each other.”

In Sarah’s case it was the parenting advice that made a big difference but the Parenting Worker also helped her to sort out somewhere to live, get the family finances back on track and most importantly get routines in place and set boundaries for the children that would make everyone happier.

“I am much more confident now,” says Sarah. “Now I have the skills to do my job…as a mum.

“My children look at me with respect and tell me their problems. We are spending more time together, getting fitter and having fun.”

Sarah has also found that her older children’s attendance and school work has improved.

Her advice to others is simple: “Never give up.”

“Just think of your kids,” she says. “At first I thought the FIP workers would judge me as a bad parent but they never did. They ended up being a lifesaver.”

Wigan Council’s Cabinet Member for Children and Young People, Cllr Susan Loudon, says: “Being a parent can be a demanding and stressful job. It requires long hours, bags of patience and a whole set of skills that some people, through no fault of their own, may just not possess.

“There is no guidebook that comes with being a parent and it is perfectly understandable that some may need a helping hand and guidance along the way. It’s a credit to people like Sarah that she was brave enough to ask for the help she needed to bring her family life back on track. Now, thanks to the support provided by the Family Intervention Project, she is reaping the rewards and realising that whilst parenthood comes with many stresses, it’s also the best job in the world.

“As a council we are committed to supporting families and providing the best we can for children and young people. The FIP is just one way we are achieving this.”

For more information on the Wigan Council and Action for Children Family Intervention Project, you can call 01942 239253

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