Helping to build strong families through connecting with nature and each other
Families Connect is a programme targeting families and children (under 16), especially hard hit by the Covid pandemic and where there is a concern about their wellbeing and safety. In general they will be referred to the Programme by G.P.’s, Children services, schools and other bodies and groups. Depending on capacity, self referrals may be accepted. The Programme is not currently accepting referrals, but hopes to open in May 2021.
About the Project
What and how?
A programme of ‘gateway’ activities and follow on support will be provided to groups of families, called Families Connect Clubs. With an underlying theme of connecting with nature, the activities and opportunities being developed include:
- Organised walks in the countryside/coast/nature conservation areas, with the opportunity to observe and learn about nature and participate in ‘natural play’ activities
- Creative arts activities to do at home/online/after school sessions and at local venues, with a ‘nature’ theme
- Visits to other nature themed projects and locations where other opportunities can be sampled and possibly followed up; e.g. museums and other cultural venues such as the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts,
- ‘Explore packs’ of learning, creative and other materials
- Advice and equipment to support families interested in developing a home garden and/or food growing
- Information and visits to other local projects and activities that may be helpful; e.g. financial advice, health and social care providers, neighbourhood support groups etc.
The Families Connect Partnership will be collectively responsible for the overall direction, management and delivery of the agreed Programme. The Partnership is initially made up of:
- Norfolk Wildlife Trust
- Norfolk Citizens’ Advice (including Norfolk Community Advice Network)
- Art at Work C.I.C.
- The Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts
- Norfolk County Council Children’s Services
- Norwich Primary Care Network
- Norfolk Green Care Network
- Active Norfolk
- District Councils (initially Norwich, Broadland and South Norfolk)
- The Conservation Volunteers
The Programme will be coordinated by a ‘local anchor’ organisation working with other delivery partners.
The local anchor, with support from other partners, will consult families and children in the defined localities about the range of activities and support to be developed in the Families Connect Clubs and beyond, to ensure that what is provided is grounded in what people will find attractive and helpful.
When and Where?
The current Programme lasts until March 2022.
The details are under development and it is currently planned to go live towards the end of June 2021, depending on Covid restrictions.
There will initially be 2 Families Connect Clubs focussed on Northern Norwich (including Catton, Mile Cross and Hellesdon) and the more rural area to the north of the City (including Drayton, Horsford, St. Faiths, Spixworth, Coltishall, Aylsham, Cawston, Reepham).
A further 3 Clubs will be started in September 2021 focussed on western, southern and eastern Norwich (including its suburbs in South Norfolk and Broadland)
Each club is expected to cater for around 10 families.
It is hoped that the Programme will be successful and, with lessons learned and additional funding, can be rolled out to other parts of Norfolk and Waveney.
The Covid Pandemic has and will continue to affect many different groups in society. In 2021 and going forwards, many families and children are likely to be affected through increased unemployment, mental and other ongoing health and developmental consequences of pandemic restrictions. This is especially so for families already experiencing levels of deprivation, including ethnic minorities.
Key findings from recent research show:
- Nearly 90% of adults agree that access to a garden, allotment or other green space is important for mental health and wellbeing or that ‘being in nature makes me happy’. These findings are mirrored for children. ‘Nature’s solutions will play an important role in helping the nation recover from the current emergency’. (Natural England)
- A reduction in physical activity levels for children, especially those in deprived and Black and ethnic minority households. Reports of growth in families exercising together- the ‘social reward’ of participating together with others and the reduced isolation provides an important external motivator, which can be leveraged post lockdown, especially to encourage taking up an activity for those who previously were inactive (Sport England)
- The extra pressures on parents and families (including those with babies) due to the lockdown/restrictions making for difficulties balancing work and caring responsibilities and/ or supporting children’s education. (Mental Health Foundation and the ’Babies in Lockdown’ Report)
- An exacerbation of the ‘toxic trio’ of domestic abuse, parental drug and/or alcohol dependency and severe parental mental health issues. (The Children’s Commissioner in the report ‘Children in Covid’)
- The importance of cultivating and sustaining greater support networks for parents and children, ensuring parents feel they have access to a wide range of trusted sources of support, particularly to enhance their mental health and wellbeing. (Ipsos Mori- Royal Foundation)
What are we hoping for?
- Participating families will be better able to cope with life through trying out and pursuing new nature- themed activities and interests together
- Families will support each other and be helped to find other support, advice and activities to help them
- Local projects and organisations will develop new ideas and working relationships and will be more financially secure and environmentally sustainable
- Lessons will be learned about how ‘social prescribing’, and especially connecting with nature can help support families, and how the system could be developed
- The success of the Project will be assessed and, hopefully, provide the basis for further expansion and development
Can you help?
If you think you can help deliver the Programme; either as a local project or body delivering nature-themed activities or perhaps as a volunteer ‘buddy’ to engage families and identify potential sources of help and support during the Activity Programme, we would love to hear from you. Please contact us for more info.