Julie is a community based family support worker in our Growing Together service in Renfrewshire
Tell me a wee bit about your role.
My role is as a project worker, I work with young families who are either expecting a baby or have a baby in that first year perinatal period. I work a lot with the Five to Thrive approach, giving parents more information about how their baby is developing and how their interactions have an impact on how their baby develops. I also work with families where I give a lot of emotional support, again through the peri-natal period, again young mums. It’s probably changed slightly during covid because the young people have been so impacted by the way the world has been in the last year.
How would you describe the support that you give to families?
The support we give is essential. I would say a lot of families if they are referred to the service by another agency for one specific purpose, maybe it’s for Five to Thrive sessions, but actually the support they get is way more than that, they get emotional support, they get support with working their way through life, the benefits system, lack of finances, housing all the basics that can make life so difficult if it’s not right. And if you can get that bit right, we then look at other things after that.
What would you say is the biggest challenge in your role?
I think at the moment it’s the strain that families are under, whether that is financial or just the whole fear around the pandemic and how that has impacted on their lives and how that is going to impact on their children’s lives. Because some of the parents we work with are so stressed dealing with the day to day and that’s a challenge to get them to a place where they feel they can maybe move past that and start focusing on the positives in their lives. There is a definite difference due to covid, I think a lot of the families I work with seem more stretched. Before they were managing to get by whereas now due to anxiety and stress around not having enough money is a real challenge. I also think the lack of information for families is a real challenge, us being able to provide them with information so they can make informed choices as opposed to them not really knowing. I know a lot of the people I have been supporting with little ones have found the not knowing what’s coming next a struggle because they’ve not got access to health visitors as readily as they would have before, they’re not seeing as many people face to face, and I think that’s been hard. So much uncertainty. And just knowing whether things are going to go back to normal – normal is going to look different afterwards. I think a lot of the young women I work with being more anxious, more stressed and these things are getting in the way of them interacting with their wee ones.
What would you say is the best thing about your role?
What I really love is working with a family from the beginning. Meeting them when they are pregnant and they are a wee bit anxious, worried, especially if they have been referred by social work. I meet them at the begining and I get to develop a relationship with them and be able to watch them blossoming through their pregnancy and then hopefully I am still involved and I get to see them interacting with their baby afterwards and watch their baby grow. Seeing somebody being really nervous top begin with but actually being able to move forward with confidence and know they can do it themselves and they don’t need your support anymore, that’s lovely!
If you could change one thing for families across Scotland, what would it be?
I wish that it wasn’t such a struggle to get support when they need it. For families not to feel they are going to be judged because they need support. To make support more available and take away any stigma. I know some young people I work with feel like they don’t want to ask for support initially because they think they are going to be judged and are worried people think they’re a bad parent or not able to look after their baby because they need extra help. Take away stigma, have more support available, have places parents can go to with their children and learn together, especially about play and all the little thing that make such a big difference in a wee ones life.