THE OFFICIAL charity of Hearts of Midlothian Football Club has announced the return of its Kinship Care After School Club, with more families than ever now able to attend.
The Big Hearts pilot ran from October to December last year and saw 26 children aged between 15 months and 16 years attending weekly.
Organised in partnership with the charity Mentor, it provides opportunities for carers to meet, share information and talk about their challenges.
This month, the After School Club will kick off again for the existing group of families as well as for a whole new group of families, with both groups meeting fortnightly on Tuesday evenings.
Aimed at the whole family, the club features a host of arts and crafts, games and activities for both kids and carers.
A family meal is also provided, allowing the families to spend time together while trying new foods.
Caryn Kerr, the general manager of Big Hearts Community Trust, said: “We are delighted to be restarting the after school club in January.
“The initial pilot was a great success and we are delighted to be providing valuable support to both carers and young people.
“We are now able to accommodate more families than ever and we are determined to ensure the programme will continue to grow throughout 2016.”
Heather McVeigh, Scotland director of Mentor, added: “There has been a resounding demand from the carers and children for the club to continue and we are delighted that this is now happening.
“Big Hearts Community Trust has helped to raise the profile of kinship care which in turn has brought forward many hidden carers who are now accessing support from Mentor as well as other appropriate organisations.
“The promotion is also helping to reduce the stigma around kinship care and highlights the value in providing dedicated support to the children of our future.”
Since launching the Kinship Care Programme and After School Club with Big Hearts, Mentor Scotland has seen a significant increase in families making use of their crucial support services.
Both charities stressed that they were “committed” to encouraging this further throughout 2016. Big Hearts and Mentor are especially keen to hear from kinship families who currently access little support or who are new to kinship care.
Kinship care is the raising of children by grandparents, great-grandparents, other relatives, or close family friends because the biological parents are unwilling or unable to do so.
It has been estimated that one in 77 children in Scotland grow up in kinship care yet despite unique challenges.