Volunteers who "champion" the help available to other mums and dads from the City of Wolverhampton Council's Children's Services enjoyed a special lunch to thank them for their support.
The "Parent Champions" were invited to a celebratory meal at Mr Singh's in Blakenhall last week in recognition of their commitment to the programme.
The Parent Champion scheme recruits parents to talk to other mums and dads about their experiences of Children's Services. The volunteers work to build trust among families and inform parents about the various opportunities available to them, such as free childcare for three and four-year-olds and eligible two-year-olds.
They also offer one-to-one support to encourage mums and dads to get help from their local Strengthening Families Hub or Headstart Wolverhampton, and support families of children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities to enable parents to have their say on the development of services.
Parent Champions have also been busy shaping how the services look moving forward, for instance setting up the Step Ahead group for parents struggling with mental health problems which meets weekly at Central Library and providing support through Job Centre Plus offices.
As well as helping others, the Parent Champions reap benefits of their own; becoming a Parent Champion strengthens participants’ employability by developing their skills and confidence, with a number going on to secure paid employment or join training programmes thanks to the support they receive in their voluntary role.
Last week's celebration was attended by 14 Parent Champions, Councillor Ian Brookfield, Leader of the City of Wolverhampton Council, Councillor John Reynolds, the City of Wolverhampton Council’s Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, Emma Bennett, Director of Children's Services, Joanne Keatley, Head of Adult Education Wolverhampton and Phillip Powell, Adult Education Wolverhampton Curriculum Manager.
Councillor Reynolds said: “Since its inception in 2016, the Parent Champions scheme has won four national awards from Coram Family and Childcare Trust. This demonstrates the impact the programme is having – and this is down to the fantastic commitment of our volunteers Parent Champions.
"We wanted to recognise this and so were delighted to invite them to a celebratory lunch. Last year they dedicated over 600 hours to volunteering in the city, often making a real difference to other parents during a time of need.
“They talk to 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.
“The volunteers want to, and have made a real difference in the city, and the scheme is a fantastic example of what the benefits of volunteering can bring. I would encourage anyone who is interested in taking on this important role to contact us to find out more."
For further details about volunteering as a Parent Champion, please call Reeta Shemar, Parent Champion Coordinator, on 07464 981888 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Parent Champions programme is run nationally by the Coram Family and Childcare Trust, a leading national family charity in the field of policy, research and advocacy on childcare and family issues. For more information, please visit www.familyandchildcaretrust.org.