A blog from Ben Wicks at Family Action, Newham

ICAN celebration photoWe at the charity Family Action, together with I CAN’s nationwide Communication Ambassadors project, are giving “troubled families” an opportunity to turn their lives around in Newham.

The Government’s Troubled Families programme aims to turn around the lives of 120,000 families in the UK that are classed as “troubled” by the end of this Parliament. A Troubled Family –  according to the payments by results criteria for the programme – is a family that might be workless, and contain children who are persistently anti- social, truanting or excluded from school.

The underlying reality is that many such families are disadvantaged by mental health and other health difficulties and disabilities, difficulties with relationships and parenting, and sometimes histories of domestic violence, personal trauma, as well as poverty and poor housing.

Building up the self-esteem and soft emotional skills of such parents is crucial; as is developing their understanding of the key role of speaking and listening to their children’s emotional development and literacy. I CAN is playing a vital role in delivery by Family Action for the Newham Families First programme. The I CAN Communication Ambassadors project has created a national network of volunteers to take on the role of Ambassadors for children’s speech, language and communication in some of the most disadvantaged areas in England – including Newham. These Ambassadors have provided peer-to-peer support and resources to parents, increasing awareness and understanding of typical communication development and making information and signposting available to those who need it.

The Newham Families First Programme works alongside I CAN to improve the outcomes for Troubled Families. Many parents have been out of work for years and lack the appropriate qualifications and experience to get them back into employment. By using volunteering, the project helps introduce them into the world of work using the I CAN Communication Ambassador Programme. Three families, along with two of the Newham staff, took part in the two and a half hour training course and, once completed, took to the streets and hit Stratford Shopping Centre to hand out leaflets and information about the importance of early years communication to over 300 people.

The I CAN programme has given families the boost they need to make an active contribution to change in their community. The three mums that took part offered help and support to each other, developing a real sense of community between them as well as a sense of achievement once they’d completed it. They now use their experience to spread the word throughout their community and can use their experience of volunteering to enter the world of work once more.

Anne-Marie Fletcher, Project Manager, Newham Families First said:

“We are part of the Troubled Families programme, so any new ways that we can use to engage with these families is a fantastic opportunity. When working with these families, it’s important to us that we celebrate their achievements as much as possible, and the three mums who took part certainly deserve a celebration.

“Taking those first steps back into work can be very daunting, but the I CAN Communication Ambassador programme has enabled them to do it in a way that works best for them, and given them skills that they can use moving forward. We look forward to using the programme with many other families who use our services.”