A scheme which encourages parents who have received help from children's services to "champion" the support available to other mums and dads has received another national award from the Family and Childcare Trust.
The City of Wolverhampton Council’s Parent Champion coordinator Reeta Shemar was named Coordinator of the Year by the Trust last year – and now the scheme itself has been named Parent Champion Scheme of the Year 2018.
The scheme recruits local men and women to talk to other parents about their experiences of children's social care services.
The volunteers work to build trust among families, and inform parents about the various opportunities available to them – such as the free childcare offer to three and four-year-olds and eligible two-year-olds.
Parent Champions also offer one-to-one advice to encourage new and prospective mums and dads to get help and support from their local Strengthening Families Hub and elsewhere, and enable parents to have their say on the development of services.
The Parent Champions have been instrumental in shaping how the scheme moves forward, for example working from Job Centre Plus offices or setting up self-help groups for parents struggling with mental health problems.
And as well as helping others, Parent Champions reap benefits of their own. Becoming a Parent Champion strengthens participants’ employability by developing their skills and confidence, and a number have gone on to secure paid employment or join training programmes thanks to the support they receive in their voluntary role.
Emma Bennett, the City of Wolverhampton Council’s Director of Children’s Services, said: “The Parent Champions scheme is a fantastic initiative which enables mums and dads who have had first-hand experience of children's services in Wolverhampton to share their knowledge with others.
"They give a few hours a week to talk to other local parents about the services which are available to them, and because they are parents themselves, they are able to share their own experiences in a relatable, trusted and informal way.
“I am delighted that the efforts of our Parent Champions, and the support of the City of Wolverhampton Council, has been recognised on a national stage by the Family and Childcare Trust.”
Reeta said: "We have trained 36 volunteers over the last two years or so, and are preparing to induct a new cohort who will soon be out and about sharing their knowledge with local families.
“The scheme is a fantastic example of the benefits that volunteering as a Parent Champion can bring, and I would encourage anyone who is interested in taking on this important role to contact me to find out more.”
For further details about volunteering as Parent Champion, please call Reeta Shemar on 07464 981888 or email email@example.com. No experience is necessary, though people need to be able to commit a minimum of two hours per week and enjoy interacting with others.
The Parent Champions programme is run nationally by the Family and Childcare Trust, a leading charity in the field of policy, research and advocacy on childcare and family issues. For more information, please visit www.familyandchildcaretrust.org.