HALF a million pounds is to be injected into 12 Edinburgh welfare organisations in a late Christmas present for the Capital’s most vulnerable youngsters.
The early years cash will be shared by groups ranging from the Scottish Adoption Society and speech therapist teams at AFASIC Scotland to the Cyrenians and bereavement support provider Richmond’s Hope.
Welfare officers and volunteers have welcomed the announcement, saying it will allow them to consolidate and expand services offered to young children and their families across the city.
Anna Chrystal, parenting outreach support co-ordinator at Stepping Stones North Edinburgh, which will receive around £45,000 to boost its work with new parents facing addiction and substance misuse issues, called the money “crucial”.
She said: “I’m lottery funded at the moment and that’s what has supported the parenting work so far, but we need wider support.
“Having this money will allow us to bring in a fathers support worker who would complement what’s going on and help us reach a wider audience.”
Operating in Muirhouse and Pilton, Stepping Stones provides group sessions in which fathers are helped with issues such as caring for at-risk children who are “born” addicted to drugs, managing stress, preparing baby food and accessing professional support.
In a further boost, dads are given practical items, such as food blenders, aimed at enhancing their ability to care for and bond with children.
Ms Chrystal said the new worker would aim to help around 33 families in the city by providing ongoing support and advice outside of the standard group setting.
She said Stepping Stones North Edinburgh, along with partner organisations Circle and Prepare, was helping to keep families together, with new dads telling her they were feeling “a lot calmer” since joining.
The babies of seven of the eight fathers who participated in recent sessions had returned home, she added.
She said: “The group work is looking at managing fathers’ emotions and how emotions can affect their relationships with their babies.
“But this is about providing more consistent, continuous support than the men would get from a two-hour session – having a funded worker will allow them to put some of their new skills into action more.”
She added: “When the last four guys received their food blenders and certificates, they were really chuffed.”
The funding announcement was welcomed by child welfare chiefs, who said it was an example of how Edinburgh’s public services are working together more effectively.
Councillor Paul Godzik, children and families leader, said: “It’s an innovative way of working with the voluntary sector and the Early Years Change Fund is a great example of this because it benefits those families and children who need it most by strengthening support for them and providing early intervention.
“There’s a wide range of different organisations receiving money from the £500,000 fund with the ultimate aim of helping children remain with their families and communities.”