A guest post from Flora Taylor the Chief Executive of Family Friends
Family Friends is a charity that works with disadvantaged families in the London Boroughs of Hammersmith & Fulham and Kensington & Chelsea.
Our aim is simple: to help families to help themselves. Our work changes lives by empowering families and building on their strengths.
Founded 20 years ago by Sheila Paget, following her work in a Barnardo’s boys home in
East London, Family Friends provides early intervention support by trained volunteers to troubled families. This prevents disastrous family breakdown, which devastates young lives and destabilises local communities.
We offer two services:
- Parent Befriending for parents of children aged 0-16
- Child Befriending & Mentoring for children aged 5-16
We provide a trained volunteer for a parent or child as a source of practical and emotional support. The volunteer visits the family in their home each week for a year.
Our experienced staff carefully monitor the volunteers and families, working closely with social workers, schools, GP’s, health visitors and other local organisations offering sensible, reliable, community based help.
In Hammersmith & Fulham the majority of families we support are via our Child Befriending & Mentoring scheme due to our funding from the Big Lottery. The children we work with are isolated and lacking in confidence while some are poorly behaved at school or bullied. Many of the families have a family member who is ill or disabled and they struggle to cope or give their children the attention they need.
Often children live in cramped housing where they have little room to expend energy or do homework.
Working with children, volunteers build aspirations for the future, provide a positive role model, raise self-esteem through developing interests, visits to museums and libraries and academic support, as well as encouraging consistent school attendance.
They also enable children to achieving better health through sport and exercise and cooking nutritious meals together.
What children say about Family Friends:
‘It is now easier to make friends and do activities out of school. I can now ignore bullying and stand up for my rights in an assertive way.’
‘Always getting 15 out of 15 in my spelling. She was helpful and great meeting her’
‘I am a different person – I was angry, now I am happy. She was wonderful’
What the referral agencies say about Family Friends:
‘We work together very well. They fulfil pieces of work we couldn’t. They have a different role – are not social services – people can grow to trust them, they are reliable, it’s just invaluable.’
Through the programme children develop confidence and self esteem, join clubs and libraries, make friends, develop interests, start using public transport, improve personal care, take more exercise, improve their diets, learn to cook healthy food and develop aspirations for the future.
Parents improve their homes, register with children’s centres, enroll on parenting classes, link in with health services, return to employment or education and improve their English.
Family Friends was presented with The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service in September 2013. This is the highest award in the voluntary sector and just seven other London charities won the award last year.
If you are interested in becoming a volunteer befriender/mentor with Family Friends please contact the office on 020 8960 9099 or visit our website to download an application form.