Befriending and hosting - bringing hope to vulnerable families and tackling the care crisis
01 JUL 2020
A grant of £280,327 from Allchurches Trust will give churches the opportunity to support and reconnect families and do their part to reduce numbers of children going into care
In January 2020, the Department for Education reported a 28% increase in children in care over the last decade, while the Early Intervention Foundation recently revealed that school closures, social distancing and lockdown measures, as a result of COVID-19, have seriously affected the ability of services to support children and families in need.
Working with more than 30 local authorities in the UK, the Safe Families charity’s groundbreaking ‘befriending and hosting’ volunteer project is helping churches to step up and be a part of the solution to the increasing number of children going into care. Safe Families’ innovative approach has helped reduce this number by between nine and 16%.
The project connects over 1,000 isolated and vulnerable children, families and care leavers each year, with its network of more than 4,500 volunteers from local churches. With the help of an Allchurches Trust grant, hundreds more ‘at risk’ families will be supported to stay together and thrive.
Jeremy Noles, Grants and Relationships Manager for Allchurches Trust, said: “We’re living in a time where so many families are experiencing increasing hardship and suffering. Safe Families and their network of church volunteers are making a profound difference in the lives of thousands of at-risk children and their families, when help and comfort is most needed. We’re thankful we are be able to support the incredible work they are doing through the church in some of the most vulnerable communities across the UK.”
CEO of Safe Families, Kat Osborn, said: “The need is huge and there is a growing care crisis with rising numbers of children in care and early help services being cut across the country. Safe Families has a model that works; having effectively demonstrated the ability to reduce the flow of children into care, to sustain families in the community and to increase the sense of hope and connection that families have; ultimately enabling them to flourish and feel more secure.”
Safe Families connects vulnerable families with regular church members, who give support in a wide range of ways; tailored to the needs of the family.
Host family volunteers can offer short periods of respite when children cannot stay at home, in much the same way a good neighbour or relative might step in when times are tough. It is a voluntary arrangement, and one in which the parent/carer remains in control at all times.
All volunteers go through a seven-step safer recruiting programme, including enhanced criminal record checks and personal references, as well as ongoing training and development.
Kat Osborn added: “Facing life alone is hard, and when you feel there is no one there to support you it is a scary place to be. These church/family relationships bring hope and practical help; they encourage, they provide the support of a good friend, neighbour, aunt or grandparent that many of us would take for granted and without whom our own stories could look very different.”
Safe Families is up and running in 1,000 churches and community groups across the UK. In 2020, the charity expects to support 1,300 families, connecting them with these volunteers so they no longer feel alone.
The funding provided from Allchurches Trust will enable Safe Families to grow its capacity and capability to work with churches across the UK, helping them to develop their already successful model of church partnerships with a strong focus on serving churches in their mission to impact the community.