Alison is a project worker at Barnardo’s Child and Family Service in Dundee
Can you tell me a wee bit about your role?
I am a project worker in a child and family service. We have a focus on children with disabilities. I predominantly work with parents, however, I use a whole family approach because a parent needs to be ok to be able to parent effectively.
Can you describe the support you give to families?
It can be supporting parents with their mental health, routines, structure, boundaries, understanding their child’s diagnosis, and sometimes it’s just being that person on the end of the phone, to listen and to say ‘ok what solution can we come up with then’. Getting a diagnosis that your child is autistic or has another additional support need can mean 1500 different things and each child is completely unique. So it’s about supporting parents to enjoy the uniqueness of their child and to learn and have the confidence to say what works for them and their child. I always say ‘you are the expert, I’m giving you suggestions and strategies which may work if you give them a go’.
Can you tell me what the biggest challenge is?
It can be if other agencies are involved and there is duplication of work, but often it’s about families not having that multi-agency approach. I’m thinking of one family with a number of children and they are all dealt with separately. We need to be better at delivering a whole family approach.
Also when parents come and say ‘actually I’m really struggling here’, we need to be better able to deliver that early intervention. Currently families often need to be a point of crisis before they get help. We need to be advocating for help to be available from early years onwards, and saying ‘it’s ok to need a bit of help, we all need help sometimes’.
What is the best bit about your job?
I love bringing joy into families lives, and children’s lives. When we work with people and build their confidence and they do something they find hard and afterwards they say ‘I did it’.
If you could change one thing for the families of Scotland, what would it be?
It would be good to normalise support, normalise parenting support groups, normalise the need for peer support. Accessing help is not about you not being a good parent, you might learn new skills and make new friendships. So many parents are very isolated, covid has really shown us that, and that isolation then impacts on their mental health. We need to break that cycle with more groups, more options, more opportunities for parents so they don’t reach a crisis point.