Big hopes for the future as support for families is now across Falkirk

27-03-2019. Picture Michael Gillen. DENNY. Denny Old Parish Church Hall. Home Start new project aims to help prepare children for school. Also expansion of groups across Falkirk. Pictured sitting: Gemma Glen 32 with daughter Jamie-Leigh Randall 14 months; Donna Murray 33 with daughter Peyton Murray 5 months and Linda Smart 28 with daughter Kai Smart 3 weeks. Standing: Pamela McMillan, Home Start group worker; Carole Maxwell, family support worker with Sean Smith 7 months and Sheila Kerr, volunteer.
27-03-2019. Picture Michael Gillen. DENNY. Denny Old Parish Church Hall. Home Start new project aims to help prepare children for school. Also expansion of groups across Falkirk. Pictured sitting: Gemma Glen 32 with daughter Jamie-Leigh Randall 14 months; Donna Murray 33 with daughter Peyton Murray 5 months and Linda Smart 28 with daughter Kai Smart 3 weeks. Standing: Pamela McMillan, Home Start group worker; Carole Maxwell, family support worker with Sean Smith 7 months and Sheila Kerr, volunteer.

A charity that aims to help children get the best start in life by supporting their families now also wants to help them get the best start at school.

Home-Start Falkirk has trained volunteers who work with families to give them a bit of support when they most need it.

Seven-month-old Sean enjoys the group

Seven-month-old Sean enjoys the group

Only people who have experience of being a parent can volunteer – because it’s essential that they understand the ups and downs of family life.

CoordinatorSandra Rankin said: “The project is called Big Hopes Big Future and really it’s what we’ve always done but with a bit more emphasis on supporting children to make the best of school.”

The idea is to make sure that no children arrive for their first day at school unprepared or frightened – and to help families work with the school to help their child make the most of the experience.

“We ask families ‘what are the challenges and how can we help?’,” explained Sandra.

14-month-old Jamie-Leigh enjoys a book with Pamela McMillan, Home Start group worker.

14-month-old Jamie-Leigh enjoys a book with Pamela McMillan, Home Start group worker.

“We may be working with a family who have a lot of issues and challenges and nursery may be quite low down their list of priorities.

“They might have financial issues or employment worries – whatever is going on.”

But Home-Start’s experience shows that a little bit of support at the right moment can make a huge difference.

“It’s about helping parent to let them see small changes can make a huge impact,” said Sandra.

Home-Start groups provide support and friendship

Home-Start groups provide support and friendship

“We understand that life with young children can be a bit chaotic!

“It’s difficult to give your full attention to every tiny aspect of family life – but they can all be be really important for children.

“So, it’s important for them to know they have to get a good sleep, and to be up, washed and dressed and had breakfast before going out the door.

“Children need to be able to go to the toilet, wash their hands.

“They also need to feel secure and safe and they need to know what’s expected of them.”

Whether mums are struggling with post-natal depression, mental health issues or a lack of support, Home-Start volunteers can help families put routines in place that will make life easier for everyone.

They can also help parents have the confidence to try messy play with their kids and have scissors, paints, pens and play dough – all of which will pay off in the classroom.

In particular, they hope that Big Hopes Big Future will break down barriers for parents who may not have had a great experience themselves of education.

“The nurseries and schools do a fantastic job – we’re looking to complement that,” said Sandra.

“If parents can build a trusting relationship with the school, that’s a massive benefit!

Up until this year, the local charity worked exclusively in the west of Falkirk.

In January it started support groups to Grangemouth and Bo’ness in addition to long-running groups in Denny, Bonnybridge and Camelon.

Members can have a chat over a cuppa while their children take part in activities before they enjoy a bit of time together – with a bit of messy play enjoyed by everyone.

What’s most important, though, is being able to share the good times as well as the bad.

“The members are hugely supportive of each other, they can all be themselves!”

“Many people are reluctant to come along because they think ‘I’m not good at groups’,” said Sandra.

“But it’s important to realise that it’s normal to struggle – and that sometimes all you can do is laugh!”