Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street visited a pioneering scheme in Wolverhampton in which mums and dads "champion" the help available to others - and wants to roll it to other parts of the West Midlands.
Mr Street met volunteers from the Parent Champions scheme based at the Children's Village in Wednesfield to find out more about the programme, which recruits parents to talk to other mums and dads about their experiences of the City of Wolverhampton Council's 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.
They have even set up support groups of their own, such as up the Step Ahead group for parents struggling with mental health problems which meets weekly at Central Library.
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.
Mr Street said: "It's been brilliant to meet the Parent Champions group in Wolverhampton and I've come away with huge respect for the volunteer coordinator Reeta Shemar for pulling this together, and for each of the Parent Champions I met.
"They have all developed their own self-confidence by being part of this, and are doing incredible things for lots of other parents; the real magic is their peer to peer work, as the Parent Champions demonstrate understanding, empathy and common sense. Congratulations to all the team here and I'm hoping we may be able to see similar schemes in other boroughs across the West Midlands."
Councillor John Reynolds, the City of Wolverhampton Council’s Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, said: “Since its inception in 2016, the Parent Champions scheme has won four national awards. This demonstrates the impact the programme is having – and this is down to the fantastic commitment of our volunteers Parent Champions.
"Last year they dedicated over 600 hours to volunteering in the city, often making a real difference to other mums and dads 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 scheme is a fantastic example of what the benefits of volunteering can bring and we were delighted to show the Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street how it works."
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.