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10 May 2016

Helping make families safer in Southampton

Chris Allcock Chris Allcock
Safe Families for Children 1

Chris (Tiff) Allcock has just changed jobs to help set up an exciting new programme designed to support families and children across the city and he explains how you can get involved.

Safe Families for Children is launching in Southampton from the beginning of October this year, and there are some great ways for the church to get involved in supporting the work.

Safe Families is a Christian charity whose overall mission is to improve the outcomes for children and families going through a crisis. It aims to reduce the number of children who need to be ‘looked after’ in care, and it does this through a large team of trained volunteers from churches in the community. Safe Families works closely with local authorities to be in a position to best support families in crisis or need.

Safe Families for Children logo

Key facts

  • 69,540 children are in care in England.
  • 580 of these are in Southampton, which has been as high as 755 over the last 12 months.
  • 43% of children in care enter the Criminal Justice System before they turn 21.

When a crisis strikes a family with children, its effects can be devastating. Many of us would turn to friends and family for support. However, some families can be really isolated with nobody there to help them. Safe Families provides support for such families whilst their issues are being resolved and often providing a short stay for their children with a trustworthy family.

Life turned upside down

For some of us, life doesn’t pan out the way we hoped it would. Unplanned events can turn our lives upside down and before we know it, a downward spiral has taken us from feeling on top of the world to the lowest we’ve ever felt. Confidence left a long time ago and anxiety has taken its place. Anxiety is no easy obstacle to conquer, and it can take hold of our social capabilities. Climbing a mountain seems easier than going out into public, and meeting up with friends becomes harder than ever before.

Imagine the difficulties a single mother, with children to care for, would face having to deal with anxiety. Her life is no longer her own; everything she does is either out of love for her children or fear for her anxiety. She has contact with other people: professionals, the only people who seem to care. But they are just doing their job; they’re doing what they’re paid for.

Being there for someone

Safe Families for Children has helped many in such situations. One case saw a Family Friend meet up for a coffee and a chat with a struggling single mother of two. The mum’s anxiety made it hard to order at the counter, which is to be expected after all she has been through.

The Family Friend and the mum got down to business: they talked. That’s all they did, and for that time and place, that was enough. After their meeting, the volunteer felt they could have spoken to each other for hours and the mother said how ‘lovely it was to do something normal’.

Simply going out for a coffee might not seem like much … and it isn’t! But for socially isolated parents suffering from anxiety, something this simple can have a profoundly positive impact. It’s all about rediscovering lost confidence, which takes a lot of time. But being there for somebody, when nobody else is, greatly contributes to the repair process.

Safe Families for Children 2

How can YOU be involved?

Safe Families needs to recruit and train volunteers, in a variety of roles: Host Families, Family Friends, and Resource Friends. If you want to find out more or sign up, you can speak directly to Chris, email him at chrisallcock@safefamiliesforchildren.com, visit the website, or come to one of information events which are to be held, on the following dates:

  • 14th June: Highfield Church, Southampton, 7:30 – 9:00pm
  • 7th July: St Thomas’s Church, Fair Oak, 7:30 – 9:00pm
  • 12th July: Above Bar Church, Southampton, 8:00 – 9:30pm

Please also pray for the work and team as they get started: they have a number of key meetings with neighbouring local authorities over the next few weeks as they look to expand the work wider than just Southampton.

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