A charity which helps to improve the lives of vulnerable families is to celebrate its official launch in the Western Isles on Monday (16 May).
The significant moment is being recognised with a visit from deputy First Minister John Swinney MSP, who is also the cabinet secretary for Covid recovery.
Safe Families has come to Stornoway thanks to a fortuitous connection between a volunteer for the national charity who was holidaying in Lewis and the Lewis-based charity The Shed, which works to support families, children and young people from its base next to Martin’s Memorial Church in Stornoway.
Workers at The Shed were already asking themselves what more they could do to support families, particularly now that issues such as financial struggle, fuel poverty, isolation and mental health have been compounded by the pandemic.
Safe Families link children, young people and families with local volunteers who can offer them help and support, especially where the parent or child may have long term health issues or where single-parent families feel life is getting on top of them.
Their work was a good fit with the mission of The Shed, who put together a funding proposal to The Corra Foundation, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and NHS Western Isles. The Corra Foundation is providing two thirds of the funding, the balance provided by CnES and NHS Western Isles.
The Shed Project is to be the lead organisation for SFWI, using training materials, and guidelines from the charity, but maintaining a degree of autonomy in determining how best to meet the needs of families in the Western Isles.
A spokesperson for The Shed said: “One of the main strengths of this partnership is our vision to provide the Safe Families service across the Western Isles from the Butt to Barra.
“Our trained staff will travel to any community interested in the work, ready to engage with individuals who would consider being trained as a Safe Families volunteer within their own community.”
The project plans to employ two part-time family support workers and a part time administrative assistant, all to be recruited early in June for training in early July. Volunteers are to be trained from mid-August onwards.
Jack Libby, chief social work officer for CnES said: “Families can experience adversity and hardship at any time, when least expected and when we are unprepared. Some families benefit from their own internal support network, but others may be less fortunate.
“This is why having services such as Safe Families within our community provides vital support and a safety net. If it was ever needed, it is now, what with dealing with the impact and legacy of the pandemic and the financial hardship arising from cost of living increases. Thank you.”
Rev Tommy MacNeil, The Shed project team leader, said: “Our motto for The Shed Project is ‘Serving our community to the best of our ability'.
“To be true to this we regularly review the services we are providing, whilst asking the question, is there more we could be doing? Safe Families Western Isles came as a direct result of us looking to answer that question.
“We are thankful for the input and assistance we received from Safe Families representatives Don MacMillan and Andy Murray whose vision and drive for SFWI matched ours.
“We are excited to have reached this stage where we can launch the project and start recruiting our staff team. We then look forward to training our volunteers who will offer informal support and journey with children and their families in our community.
“As we launch Safe Families Western Isles, we also want to note our heartfelt gratitude to The Corra Foundation, CnES, and NHS Western Isles for their financial support of the project.”
Deputy First Minister John Swinney MSP will also attend Stornoway Port Authority’s board meeting and officiate at the turf-cutting ceremony for the new deepwater terminal at Arnish on Monday afternoon.
Pictures from The Shed.