Face2Face, the parent befriending service provided by disability charity Scope continues to expand its service offering in Solihull, having recently trained 5 new volunteers and is recruiting more.
Having been established in several other areas of the UK for over 15 years, Face2Face launched in Solihull in July 2012. Since then, demand for their core one-to-one befriending service has rocketed, as well as triggering the development of other supplementary services to support parents of children with additional needs in the Borough.
Face2Face is a one-to-one parent befriending service offering emotional support to parents whose children have been recognised as having a disability or additional needs. The service is unique in Solihull, offering a befriending service to parents of children recognised as having any disability or additional need. It is free and available for as long as the parent needs our support.
Many parents find it invaluable to talk to another parent of a disabled child (their Befriender). Having someone to talk to, who has similar experience, gives a parent the freedom to express the emotion that many feel as a natural part of coming to terms with their child’s disability. Acknowledging those feelings, which may include pain, uncertainty and loss, can help them to process their experience, enabling them to find better strategies for supporting themselves and managing their situation.
All volunteer parent Befrienders are also parents of children with additional needs, who are trained to support other parents emotionally. Each volunteer Befriender is interviewed and undertakes 40 hours of quality assured training before starting any befriending; advanced DBS disclosures are taken up as well as references.
Volunteers are supported and supervised by a structure set up by Scope to ensure parents receive high quality support as well as ensuring the well-being of its volunteers.
Why is the service needed?
When your child is diagnosed with a disability or is recognised as having an additional need it can be a confusing and worrying time. The process of learning of your child’s condition and adapting to a new ‘normal’ raises several emotions in parents. The emotions are often distressing and conflicting; impacting on family relationships and dynamics, finances, as well as parents’ own well-being. Fig.1 illustrates some of those emotions and their often conflicting nature. The left hand side often correlates at the time of diagnosis or assessment, but also at other milestone moments in a child’s life: starting school, adolescence, transition to adulthood.
Eventually, after a period of adjustment, parents and families can begin to come terms with their child’s disability and start to realise the emotions on the right side of the diagram. This process can be enhanced and accelerated by Face2Face Befriender support.
Many of the parents that Face2Face support are struggling to deal emotionally with the reality of their child’s condition and are not ready to acknowledge their feelings or have sufficient confidence to access other services available to them and their family, attend groups or interact with professionals. Supporting parents at their own pace to navigate through their feelings and this adjustment phase helps them to move forward positively.
Parents from across the UK have voiced their enthusiasm and thanks to Face2Face over many years. A recent independent study praised the service. It highlighted the holistic nature of the support provided; stating that Face2Face is unlike many other interventions which focus on the child and are only able to take into account one specific aspect of the child’s situation or physical needs.
The report concluded that befriending offers the benefits of both time limited and open ended support. This means it can be a focussed short term intervention which galvanises the Befriendee (the Parent) to make the most out of each session, and may help with commitment where time might be an issue (and also serves to protect the Befriender). Similarly it can adapt to the pace of the Befriendee and become a longer journey if needed. It commended that the service is affordable – a free service offered by professionally trained volunteers which means it is inclusive and available to everyone who needs it.
A recent Solihull-specific survey polled parents who had accessed Face2Face services in the borough. We are pleased that 100% of respondents said they would recommend Face2Face to another parents and that they were satisfied with the service they received, with over 70% being very satisfied.
What next for Solihull?
Following the successful training of the first cohort of 8 parent Befrienders in July 2012, a further 5 completed their training in June 2013 and are eager to put into practice some of the key skills they honed during their training programme.
Demand for befriending in Solihull is still outweighing supply, with the service receiving over 100 referrals in 12 months. In an effort to ensure that parents have the shortest wait time possible to be matched with a Befriender, Co-ordinator Jo Bussey is looking for more parents in Solihull to become volunteer Befrienders. Another training programme is scheduled for January 2014. If you are a parent of a child with a disability living in Solihull and would like to support other parents, please contact Jo for more details. Similarly if you are a professional working in the Borough and know parents who would be able to support their peers raising a child with additional needs, please get in touch.
The demand for one-to-one befriending has been such that it has led us to look at other ways of supporting parents in Solihull. Listening to their needs in a comprehensive survey last summer (2012) we recognised the need to support parents of children with emotional, social and behavioural difficulties in particular. Accounting for the majority of Face2Face referrals, these parents of children with ‘unseen’ disabilities felt forgotten by many support services and their challenges were the least tolerated by wider society, causing them additional stress.
As a result of this feedback, Face2Face launched a group for parents of children with ESBD in January 2013. The group has gone from strength to strength and continues to grow in numbers. The group is more than a social gathering, but less intense than one-to-one befriending. It has been well received by parents who are ready to acknowledge their child’s difficulties and begin to form their own social networks. The group is a facilitated session, discussing different elements that arise from the parent’s input. There is also plenty of time for parents to chat and make new friends. Lunch and a crèche are provided to make accessing the service as easy as possible. Guest speakers are planned for the Autumn term from Autism West Midlands, Solihull DIAL and Scope Response, as well as any other agencies that parents would like to hear from.
To support parents with specific causes for concern or stress, Face2Face Solihull has been able to draw upon the expertise and knowledge of Scope. Specifically, Time2Behave workshops have been scheduled for October 2013, and early 2014. Time2Behave offers behaviour management support and strategies to parents of children with disabilities and/or special educational needs. Additionally, Face2Face are hoping to facilitate a parent’s workshop focussed on sleep issues and support, later in the year. As with all Face2Face services, these workshops will be free of charge.
Face2Face exist to provide support parents of children with a disability or additional needs. Aiming to help parents feel less isolated, more empowered to move on with their lives and more optimistic and positive about theirs, their child’s and their family’s future.
For further information and all enquiries about Face2Face Solihull, please contact Jo Bussey, Face2Face Co-ordinator on 0121 444 8584 / 07772010685 or by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org