We've had some wonderful news at the Sycamore Trust recently. Our pioneering social project that teaches young adults with learning difficulties about appropriate relationships, safe sex and parenting education and skills has been given a new lease of life, thanks to further funding from the National Lottery.
We’ve been running our Parenting Pathways programme for the last three years with great success, but it's future had been in doubt as the funding was due to end. Now, thanks to The Lottery acknowledging the need for this service and the difference it has made to many lives, it has granted the project a further five years funding.
For the past three years the project supported and empowered some of the most vulnerable members of society, in particular young adults with learning difficulties who found themselves in adult relationships with little or no knowledge on how to behave.
Others have been supported when they found they were expecting a baby. In many cases, due to their history or lack of capacity, these parents faced having their baby removed at birth and placed into foster care whilst assessments were completed. However, with early intervention from the Pathways project, those parents were given support to attend appointments and to develop their parenting knowledge, ability and skills. This in turn empowered those with the capacity to show professional services that they could provide good enough parenting to keep their family together. Some cases went from Child Protection and removal order to Child Protection and supervision order and over time the cases have been closed. For those parents who did not have the capacity to care for their children they at least had the knowledge that they had done their best, and they were supported during the removal process.
In the three years since it began, Parenting Pathways has enabled around thirty families to enhance their parenting capacity and to keep their children, despite initially facing possible adoption. It has also delivered sex education and appropriate relationship knowledge to over 120 young people.
With the programme’s future in doubt, the Sycamore Trust had been unable to take on any new cases, but they can now look forward to five more years of assistance and guidance for young adults in the local area.
Parenting Pathways Project Manager Jean Rayner said “It’s wonderful news. It is really fulfilling seeing the changes in the families and young adults, especially when you see their confidence grow and they find a voice and are no longer afraid to speak up and ask for help and advice as they know they are not being judged.”
Jean continued; “Becoming a parent can be an overwhelming and life changing experience for many of us. For those who may not have had good role models or have never had things taught to them in a way they can understand, it is overwhelming when you see the changes happening and they start to understand about safe guarding their children, communication and keeping themselves and their homes clean. Now we can continue with our work and offer knowledge, advice and support to those who need it.”
Prior to the introduction of Parenting Pathways, there had been a gap in support for expectant parents with a learning difficulty in East London, especially those who were already facing the removal of a child or who had already faced having a child removed. In almost every case, parents who had faced losing a child or had guardianship orders being imposed upon them had no prior opportunity to learn how to parent or to develop the skills required at a level they could relate to. While many people understand the physical and emotional needs of a tiny baby, in many cases, adults with learning difficulties needed additional guidance to enable them to develop these skills.
It’s wonderful news for the Sycamore Trust UK, and CEO Chris Gilbanks said; “We’re delighted with the news that the National Lottery have extended their support. Parenting Pathways is a vital project in both social and economic terms. It is estimated that each child in care costs the local authority responsible around £42,000 in care costs, so our success rate to date has saved the taxpayer over £1.5m.”
The Children & Young People Now Awards 2018 has acknowledged the safeguarding work the project has been doing and has shortlisted Parenting Pathways as a finalist in this year’s awards, set to be announced in November.