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by Rebecca McQuillan
28 May 2020
Getting to know the frontline: Barnardo's children’s services manager Marie Pye

Marie Tye - Image credit: Marie Tye

Getting to know the frontline: Barnardo's children’s services manager Marie Pye

Marie Pye, children’s services manager for Barnardo’s Scotland Nurture Service in Inverclyde, tells Holyrood how her service has adapted during lockdown

Tell us a little about your service and what you do in the community.

We provide a family support service as part of the Scottish Attainment Challenge. We look at the barriers to a child attaining in education. We also look at what’s going on in the child’s wider world and how we can work with the parent to help them meet the child’s needs and potential for learning.

I would say 95 per cent of children referred from school for support are living in the most deprived two fifths of postcodes. When poverty is coupled with other areas of adversity such as loss and change, poor mental health and addiction, then families are facing massive challenges. Many of the parents that we support have had difficult early care experiences themselves. Right now we are supporting approximately 250 families.

How have you had to change your service since lockdown?

Normally we meet children in school, go to the family home, offer drop-in sessions for parents, and after-school clubs for parents and children. So there’s been a significant change in how we are supporting families. Generally, family support workers have been working from home.

Lockdown at home with children in poverty is very, very difficult. We phoned all the families and asked them what they felt they needed in preparation for it. Family support workers check-in with families regularly by phone and we provide a crisis line, so families can talk to someone at any time. We also have a skeleton staff at the service base. We delivered activity packs to all our families at Easter, as well as food and emergency supplies.

Are you receiving money from different sources?

Additional funding and donations have been so valuable. Barnardo’s received Scottish Government funding to support families in hardship, which we’ve used to help families with the additional costs of gas and electricity, and data. If a young person can’t reach out to friends because they haven’t enough data that can be very hard. Just recently we had a request from a team of teachers who are providing pamper packs to young girls experiencing period poverty. We used the Wellbeing Fund to support that. We’ve also used donations from the local community to provide food parcels and toiletries to families. 

Are there any positives that you can take away from this experience?

What’s very positive in Inverclyde is that we’re in weekly communication with leadership staff of partner services and agencies – education, social work and educational psychology – to ensure we’re supporting the most vulnerable children who are at increased risk right now. As part of this plan, Barnardo’s are transporting children to school hubs. There’s been a higher uptake of hub school places in Inverclyde than nationally.

Barnardo’s are doing doorstep visits to check on a family’s wellbeing if the school hasn’t been able to get through to the family by phone. We’re also carrying out a survey to understand the barriers families are experiencing with home learning. At the request of education staff we’ve been providing money from the Wellbeing Fund to ensure families have the digital devices they need. We’re getting feedback that what we’re doing is very helpful.

Read the most recent article written by Rebecca McQuillan - Power of Scotland: Can one small nation lead the global fight against climate change?

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