Lesley is a school-based family support worker for Barnardo’s in Inverclyde
Can you tell me a wee bit about your role?
I am a school based family support worker. Generally referrals come through the school from the headteacher, but my number is out through the school community and pre-covid we had a parent drop-in facility and family learning where people could come in and make contact informally.
How would you describe the support to families that you provide?
I support families with any sort of need, so it could be problems with their tenancy, problems with their finances, budgeting, getting their benefits straight, those sorts of immediate practical supports. But I also offer support emotionally, if they are going though tough times either because they have mental or physical health problems, or because someone in their family has mental or physical health problems, or relationship issues with kids, partner or other people in their family or community. It can also be they have problems implementing routines and boundaries with their kids, and addressing this can make family life much better. I try and give support that’s appropriate in the sense of timeliness, the level of their need, to come alongside them and not disempower them in any way. I want them to realise they have the power within themselves to get through whatever is going on for them and get out the other end. I always believe we can work together to get to a place where they no longer need me. Parents are the best people to know what’s going on in their family, they are the experts and it’s much better to support them to a place where they can deal with things on their own.
What do you think is the biggest challenge in the job?
I think the biggest challenge is relationships, everything comes down to relationships. If someone who sees you as finger wagging they are not going to be open to being supported, so it’s essential you build that relationship from the beginning, to let them know you are there to support, not to judge. But relationships are also the biggest asset in family support, because if you get that relationship bit right it is so much easier to move forward and support that person in the way they need. When people understand and trust you they open up about what’s going on, even difficult issues like substance misuse and domestic abuse and you are able to get to the root of the problem.
What is the best thing about your job?
People!!! Relationships!!! I love meeting people, I love getting to know people and I’m interested in people of all ages and backgrounds. I love that I get to play with babies, speak to schoolkids, parents, carers, professionals.
If you could change one thing for families in Scotland what would it be?
I would like help to be available when people need it, how they need it and where they need it. I would also like to get rid of any stigma, it’s not a failure to ask for help.