Collectively, we urged them to commit to a ‘radical expansion and enhancement of the support available to families to make sure every family gets the support they need to recover from the pandemic.’ Like others, we believe family support should be a basic right and be available for as long as it is needed.
Family support involves working alongside families to build on their strengths and develop the tools, strategies, and skills needed to create a safe and loving family environment. We believe having access to family support will play a central role in the nation’s recovery from the pandemic. As a charity working with more than 20,000 children, families, and young people across Scotland, we know from first-hand experience that Covid has resulted in families being placed under immense strain.
As one family said: “I was finally going to get the support that I was too afraid to ask for, once I realised they wanted to support and not take over, I felt so relieved.”
However, that relief is not afforded to all families. Owing to lockdown restrictions, many were forced to spend large amounts of times indoors, unable to access their usual support networks of friends and extended family. Added to this, poverty, and financial worries, resulting from the loss of a job, or reduced hours, coupled with an increase in household spending on food, heating, and electricity piled on another layer of stress. We have also seen a rise in families seeking support for the very first time.
In 2020, we published a study of our family support provision in Scotland. It highlighted a recurring theme of the importance of a relationship-based and people-centred focus. It outlined the significance of treating families as unique, drawing support that meets their individual needs and being there for them in good times and bad. This was all underpinned by not judging families, but by really listening and having a mutual partnership relationship. We are incredibly proud of our Family Support Services. For many, it has been a real lifeline. It has succeeded in keeping families together while at the same time empowering communities. Our services have become firmly embedded in the villages, towns, and cities they work so hard to support.
But as we move on from the pandemic, and build towards a recovery, at Action for Children believe that family support can play a significant part. However, while we know the demand is out there, it is not currently met by supply. As an organisation, our imagination is unlimited when it comes to the good that Family Support can offer. It empowers families. It is there for them in good times and bad. It can address a family's needs early on and it can reduce risk factors, which may cost more to put right if left unaddressed. However, as an organisation, we have limited resources, we will continue to invest in this area, but we need a national effort to unbind the financial restraints.
That is why we will continue to push the Scottish Government to make a bold commitment to make family support a right families can exercise. I will leave the last word to a family who said: “I think the family support has been fantastic and they have got me through things I don’t think I would’ve been able to deal with. They don’t judge and I appreciate all the help they give.”
Paul Carberry is the Action for Children Director for Scotland