Published on
02 September 2021

Mary is a school-based family support worker in our Pathways service in Falkirk

Here she tells us a wee bit about her role...

Support in schools

My role in school is a ‘jack of all trades’, a lot of the work I do is with kids not attending or not engaging in school. I have a variety of young people from first to fifth year. A lot of the wider work with families is about the young person’s mental wellbeing and the mental wellbeing of the other family members, which they may be struggling with. There can also be substance misuse issues at home.  I also support some refugee families who literally have nowhere else to turn. 

Can you describe the support you give to families?

I support families with financial challenges, providing bedding, fridges, electricity grants, food parcels and where I need to, referrals to foodbanks and other services for ongoing support with any issues.

I share an office with a community education worker so I know what’s out there and refer families to that for cooking and our own Gear Up project to get kids access to bikes. also do a lot of in-school support. So if I have a young person who struggles in a certain class, in discussion with the school I then arrange support, whether that’s catching up with the class teacher or working directly with the young person and liaising with their family.     

Can you tell me what your biggest challenge is?

I think the biggest challenge in recent months has been the covid restrictions - not being able to do home visits, not being able to meet parents in person, not having access to our service spaces in the usual way to do the fun activities that kids really enjoy. During two weeks in the last holidays, all I did was walk and talks with ice cream. I walked 24 miles!

My other big challenge is that I feel I make really good progress, with the young person coming to school, preparing for their qualifications, I’ll have done a lot of work in preparation, rearranged their timetables, talked to people and then it crashes all around you because something happens in their world. Sometimes that is a big challenge but you just need to keep persevering.   

What is the best bit about your job?

The best bit is to see young people enjoying school again and getting something out of their education. They know I am there for them and they pop in, they know there is a person in that school who can take time and look out for them. Just having those relationships with the kids is so good.

I think the other thing is helping families, especially in the tough times over covid - being able to give financial help to our most vulnerable.

If you could change one thing for the families of Scotland, what would it be?

I think there needs to be better services for young people who have mental health issues because what is available is so limited and difficult to access. So a really good service that parents and young people can tap into. It’s always been there but sadly I think it has got worse and not just because of covid.

And certainly, we need more of me! In school I’m the only one and there should be more as I am only seeing the tip of the iceberg in terms of the number of families who need support.