How is the Big Lottery Fund’s Improving Futures programme impacting upon the lives of children and their families across the UK? Having been commissioned to carry out a five-year evaluation, in the new year the project team are releasing an updated paper focused on supporting fathers.
In this guest blog, Jimi Odell of Family Lives explains more about recent research and an upcoming free webinar for those with an interest in the families and early years care.
Fathers are one of the most overlooked demographics in parenting support with many services branded for and targeted at mums with no specific measures in place to ensure dads come along too. But even when engagement with mothers is high on a service’s agenda and practitioners say they believe it’s important to work with fathers too, research has found that they often fail to do so.
Recent research shows that when parenting practitioners work with fathers as well as mothers, the positive effects on children are greatly increased.
Services that are set up primarily for mothers – whether intentionally or not – are learning to change how they plan, market and deliver their services so that fathers feel more welcome and able to attend and access valuable learning resources to support their children.
Some practitioners may hold the view that fathers spend less time with their children than mothers do and are less involved in their children’s lives, both emotionally and practically.
While there is some truth in this, recent research has looked into this more deeply and the reasons behind it are discussed in the forthcoming paper for family practitioners on ‘Engaging with fathers’.
It will also feature eight key recommendations for improving father engagement and include new material that reflects recent research and aims to support the 26 projects involved in Improving Futures and their work with fathers.
The paper also sets out to demonstrate the importance of engaging fathers in family support services and offers some practical tips on how to go about doing this. We hope that other service providers outside of the project will also find this useful.
In addition, practitioners are invited to attend a free webinar on 19 December 2013 hosted by Parenting UK. It will feature a representative from one of the 26 funded projects, The Enfield Family Turnaround Project, who will be giving an insight into how they rebranded their services to and targeted dads in the local area.
The webinar is open to anyone who works with families or has an interest in this area of work and wants to learn more about engaging fathers. All participants will be invited to discuss their experiences and challenges of working with fathers.
The final paper will be made publicly available once case studies have been collected and reviewed. Anyone wishing to submit case studies is invited to attend the webinar or contacting me at Parenting UK by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jimi Odell is Digital Communication and Research Officer at Family Lives.
Improving Futures was launched in 2011 with a £26m investment from the Big Lottery Fund to support families with multiple and complex needs. 26 local projects are developing new approaches to support 10,000 families around the country, sharing best practice as they adapt and evolve.
As winter approaches, most of us take for granted the car we rely on to get us from A to B. But what if you are older, alone and completely reliant on your car to keep in touch with the outside world – especially if you live in a rural area?
The Touchstones project has come up with an innovative set of workshops for older people, including one teaching car maintenance. These are free and offered to older bereaved people who rely on their car to go shopping, attend medical appointments and make social calls.
One group member Sue, 72, lost her husband six years ago. Here she explains how Touchstones has made such a difference to her life.
“When I lost my husband six years ago, I was completely on my own – my son and daughter and two grandchildren live in London, with my sister living in South Wales so I was completely reliant on friends.
“I felt very lonely – once you come home, you shut the door and you are in the house on your own. You lack the confidence to get back into the big wide world again. My husband had been poorly for quite a while before he died so I was restricted before I was a widow and had to give up some of my social activities.
“Losing my husband was destavating in itself, but until that moment you are part of a partnership, you have a confidante, you have company. As well as grieving, you have to learn to live alone, deal with ‘social’ situations, re-build your life and learn to take on new challenges. I felt very insular. I had my friends but even they were all in couples and although they would try to include me in things it just isn’t the same.
“At Touchstones it is lovely because everyone in the group has similar circumstances to mine. They are a friendly group and we all learn a lot from each other and we do have lots of fun too! We have been involved in lots of different activities, including chairobics, computing with local children, sewing, cooking and more recently the car maintenance workshop.
“Having a car is really important to me as I live quite a walk away from the local bus stop and having arthritis means that it is difficult for me to walk up and down hills, so I do really need it. The car workshop was really interesting – I had never been in a garage like that.
“I wish Touchstones had come into my life a lot sooner, it takes time to build your confidence back up when you lose someone and the project has definitely helped me. It is funny but only in the last six months, old friends have said to me that I have actually come out of my shell and that I am a different person to what I was five years ago.”
Touchstones is a project working with bereaved older people in Harrogate, Craven and Wakefield and is a partnership between Rural Action Yorkshire and Age UK. It is funded by the Big Lottery Fund’s Silver Dreams Fund.
You might be forgiven for thinking at 80, Bill Tidy MBE, distinguished cartoonist, writer and TV personality, might want to put his feet up. But why would he do that when he can spend his days helping people at a Lottery-funded project? The Big Lottery Fund’s Sue Barsby tells us more.
Drawing Everybody’s Attention is a project that runs at Jobs Education and Training (JET) in Derby, a charity that provides assistance to the local community in finding courses, opportunities and work across the city.
JET is based in a very diverse area of the city and the project brings communities from all walks of life together, to help them engage with each other and to find employment.
The project uses pictures to help teach the attendees who are dealing with learning English as a second language. The sessions were devised by Bill and JET staff to make learning English interesting and interactive.
Bill, formerly a political cartoonist who made his name with cartoon strips such as the Fosdyke saga and The Cloggies, runs sessions that play with language, encouraging the participants to come up and draw too, engaging everyone across language and cultural barriers. The sessions bring the different communities together and help them to exchange ideas, points of view and experiences as well as teaching English.
“The idea behind the illustrated lecture programme,” says Peter Bartlett, Business Development Director at JET, “was to recognise that pictures don’t need language specialisation.
“It would be a way of getting together groups of different nationalities so that we could help them with English, get them working together in a happy environment and involve them in drawing.
“We’ve been delighted with the level of participation and the feeback that we’ve got and many people have asked to come again.
“The challenge we’ve now got is to explore using this as a permanent tool in our ESOL delivery and possibly adapting it because it’s also a terrific educational tool for young people.”
Drawing Everybody’s Attention received £7,952 from Awards for All in April 2013 to run a series of illustrative lectures for the local community in Derby. Listen to the following podcast for Bill’s thoughts on the project:
What do you think of Sue’s guest blog? Have you been involved in a project engaging people through art? Leave your comments on the blog below or join the conversation on Twitter using #biglf
Dharmendra Kanani, Big Lottery Fund England Director, is on a panel at today’s event to discuss the positive impact of this investment since it launched in 2008. Here he tells us more about the success of Local Food.
“The Local Food programme has made a real difference to people’s lives by supporting hundreds of communities to grow their own sustainable food, to eat more healthily and be more active.
The Big Lottery Fund invested £59.8 million in the Local Food initiative because we believe in the value of making healthy food accessible and affordable. The funding has resulted in our award partner, the RSWT, making grants to around 500 projects across England.
These projects have achieved a great deal, from giving 33,000 school children the know-how to cook healthy meals and helping 150,000 people learn how to grow fruit and vegetables, to enabling thousands of volunteers to cultivate allotments and community gardens.
Local Food has brought small, often neglected pieces of land back to life, developed local infrastructure, engaged disadvantaged groups and contributed to an increase in the physical quantity of food produced at a local level.
That’s why today’s event is so important so we can celebrate and recognise the achievements of Local Food projects.
We’re proud of the difference Local Food projects have been making to people’s lives. These initiatives are helping bring communities together to use people powered change to transform their local area.“
To read about Live Well, Eat Well, a Local Food project in Cumbria. visit the BIG Stories page of our website.
For more information on the Local Food initiative visit www.localfoodgrants.org
Visit the Local Food YouTube channel from Thursday 21st November to view films of all of the projects shortlisted for an award at today’s event.