Bettws Early Learning Community’s Biscuit Club is highly commended in national awards
A community group supporting local families run by Bettws Early Learning Community (ELC) and partners has been recognised as good practice in the Chartered Institute of Housing Cymru Welsh Housing Awards 2022.
The Biscuit Club, which is an informal weekly group where parents can meet and discuss any issues that they may need help with, was one of the projects highlighted in United Welsh Housing’s commendation in the Supporting Communities Award.
United Welsh’s Working Families project supports the Biscuit Club in partnership with Save the Children Cymru, primary schools and community groups in the Bettws area of Newport, South Wales.
The club, which meets for coffee mornings, provides a safe space for people to build relationships and connections in the community, which in turn is helping to improve mental health and wellbeing.
It is a key part of the work being carried out by Bettws ELC to bring families and local organisations together to make sure children in Bettws are getting the support they need to thrive, learn and have the best possible start in life
Jonathan Conway, Family Engagement Worker, United Welsh, said, “I think Biscuit Club is an excellent example of what can be done when working with communities to deliver support that they need both for them and alongside them. It is great to see the increased confidence of community members and their willingness to support one another. Once it is truly sustainable, it will be a legacy for the community.”
The Biscuit Club provides an opportunity for local services such as housing associations like United Welsh, health visitors and family information officers to offer advice to parents and their children including a range of practical training courses such as how to write CVs, learn digital skills or make healthy food go further on a budget.
It is also supporting parents to overcome isolation by building a support network and improving the confidence of members.
Emma Young who attends the Biscuit Club said, “My mental health has improved, as I had no-one I knew in Bettws, as I’m not from the area. It’s given me a support network and helped get my confidence back. Doing courses to help me gain employment has also been a great help.”
Kerstin Nott, Bettws ELC Project Officer, who runs the Biscuit Club, said she was delighted that this important project which brings together organisations and families to find solutions and improvements, has been recognised on a national stage.
She said; “We know the Biscuit Club is making a difference. Communities are resilient, especially when people come together and with the support of our partners and local services, we can make sure their voices bring about change.
“To quote one of the parents after a session with our team: “Now we feel heard.”
The Welsh Housing Award Supporting Communities Award celebrates projects that have gone above and beyond working to support their communities during these difficult times.
*You can read more about United Welsh’s highly commended award in the Welsh Housing Awards 2022 Good Practice Compendium and for further information on the Bettws Early Learning Community project, visit https://bettwselc.org.uk/
FROM COVID TO COST OF LIVING – NEW RESEARCH HIGHLIGHTS THE CONTINUED CHALLENGES FACING FAMILIES IN WALES
The sheer magnitude of the challenges faced by families in Wales over recent months and years is revealed in a new report published by Save the Children Cymru.
‘From Covid-19 to Cost of Living: 18 months of providing Early Years Grants to Families in Wales’ highlights some of the main problems families are experiencing and how they can combine to make day-to-day lives more complicated and challenging.
Poverty is on the rise across the UK and Wales has the highest level of child poverty compared to all other nations, with nearly 1 in 3 children growing up in its grip. The deepening tragedy of child poverty in the UK has been intensified by the COVID-19 pandemic and cost of living crisis making providing for children much more difficult.
Working with local community partners throughout the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns, Save the Children distributed emergency grants across the UK to meet the immediate needs of families. The grants provided beds, highchairs, pushchair, and other essential household items and included learning resources such as books, toys, educational activities, and vouchers to spend on food and essential items like clothes.
Unfortunately, the need for this type of support did not end when lockdown did. The cost-of-living crisis means parents still struggle to afford the items and resources they need to help their children thrive. That is why Save the Children has continued to work with partners in Wales to support families through its Early Years Grants scheme reaching over 1500 children living in 775 household over the past 18-months.
Analysis of the grants’ delivery in Wales over this period shows why these grants were needed and that the key issues families were facing were Covid-19 and the associated lockdowns and the cost-of-living crisis. Each of these huge social and economic events sit alongside a range of other challenges such as issues with benefits, job insecurity, costs associated to new baby, disabilities and health problems, coming to Wales as a refugee or asylum seeker, housing issues, including homelessness and domestic abuse.
Melanie Simmonds, head of Save the Children Cymru said: “Just as the immediate impact of the Covid-19 pandemic began to ease, the cost-of-living crisis proliferated leaving the most vulnerable children and their families facing increasing hardship.
“We all need to work together to address these challenges. Over the coming years through our work, we will try to reduce the number of children growing up in poverty in Wales by working in partnership with others, listening to the latest evidence, and most importantly listening to the voices of children and families and our partners working within communities.”
The Cardiff community-based charity Action in Caerau & Ely (ACE) which supports local residents with crisis drop-in sessions, a volunteer-led toy and shop, a food pantry, foodbank, warm bank, café and community garden and training is one of Save the Children’s main partners in delivering the Early Years Grants.
Nerys Sheehan, Community Support Co-Ordinator for Action in Caerau and Ely said: “Since the pandemic we have seen a huge increase in the number of people seeking help and we now have up to 50 people a week coming through our doors. People are in absolute crisis, in destitute, with no food, no fuel and they have nowhere else to turn. This kind of grant opportunity is a lifeline for so many people but there is only so much we can do. I worry about the months ahead and how this is going to look and affect the most vulnerable in society. It’s going to get worse.”
A single mum from Newport with a one-year-old daughter who recently received a grant said: “I’m going to use the voucher to stock up on food, lots of tins, to see us through because honestly, I am struggling to buy what we need. And I’m going to get some Christmas presents for my daughter. I don’t know what I would have done without this grant.”
Melanie Simmonds feels strongly that turning rhetoric into action to make sure no child misses out is a priority that just can’t wait: “The UK government in its Autumn Statement has made inroads to ease families’ pain but they still face tough times ahead. Increasing the benefit cap in line with inflation is significant. But we believe an extra £10 per month per child into the child element of Universal Credit is needed to provide sustainable support for children and families long-term and that childcare costs and better routes to sustainable work need to be addressed. We also need to ensure that the real-term cuts to the Welsh Government’s funding will not affect families in Wales needing access to vital services.”
To read the full report please click here
The Bettws Early Learning Community (BELC) launched in September 2019 with the aim of improving early learning outcomes for children in Bettws, Newport. Since then, BELC partners have been working together to improving the early learning outcomes of children growing up in poverty.
Local organisations come together to make sure that children are getting the support they need to thrive, learn and grow up in a place they can be proud of. We know this approach is making an impact. Working together and keeping children at the centre of what we do can bring long term sustainable change. That’s the approach we are using in Bettws, Newport and now we want to expand our understanding of the model by testing it in another area in Wales.
What is Y Prosiect Ehangu/The Expand Project?
Save The Children Cymru would like to work collaboratively in another area as they test this approach.
From today (Wednesday, 23 November 2022), organisations/partnerships who work with children from 0-7 years are encouraged to submit a proposal to the Bettws ELC Ehangu (Expand) Fund.
We can offer a grant of £45,000 to work with Save the Children between January 2023 and December 2024 to do this.
The project aims to:
- provide seed funding for a small place-based systems change pilot project
- develop a package of core materials (an ELC ‘Ehangu starter kit’) which can be tailored to other areas as they develop their own partnerships and systems change programmes.
- develop and test a model of support for STC to share our experience and expertise to help other place-based Early Years partnerships develop
In Bettws as part of this approach we have worked with partners to test new ways of maximising children’s outcomes such as extending the use of school grounds for play outside of school hours. Trailing new ways to support children and their families as they start school, such as forest school sessions and new ways of communicating and sharing information as professionals. You can find out more at https://bettwselc.org.uk
Rebecca Thomas, Bettws ELC Lead, said, “Save The Children is often asked to share how we are working and what we are learning to help others to develop place-based Early Years systems change projects. There is no one-size-fits-all roadmap, but we do know there are some key elements to developing a systems change project and we would like to test these in action supporting another partnership.”
Project proposals must be submitted by December 14, 2022 and successful proposals will be notified by January 12, 2023.
If you need more information or help please contact: contact Rebecca Thomas at R.Thomas@savethechildren.org.uk or click here for the overview and apply.
We look forward to hearing from you!
UK GOV HAS MADE INROADS TO EASE FAMILIES’ PAIN BUT THEY STILL FACE TOUGH TIMES AHEAD
Melanie Simmonds, Head of Save the Children Cymru said: “We are reassured by the Chancellor’s support for children and families today as parents face one of the toughest economic climates in their lifetimes. Everyone is suffering right now, but to see social security budgets are going up by over 10% and the minimum wage by over 9% should give hope for the future.
“We are pleased to see both benefits and the benefit cap rise in line with inflation. Increased Universal Credit will be a key lifeline for those struggling with a punishing cost of living crisis though it would have been better to introduce it early, rather than making people wait until April 2023.
“Increasing the benefit cap in line with inflation is significant. This arbitrary and unfair cap prevents over 100,000 households with children from accessing their full entitlement. We hope this is a first step to scrapping this cap entirely.
“The Chancellor’s introduction of an Energy Price Guarantee of £3000, plus the targeted support of £900 extra as a cost of living payment for those on benefits is going to help people. Yet we are concerned that once again the one-off payments do not take family size into account, which means some children will miss out. We believe an extra £10 per month per child into the child element of Universal Credit is also needed to provide sustainable support for children and families long-term.
“Parents we work with are also concerned about the fresh focus on worklessness, and worry there isn’t the right kind of support to help them get into and progress at work. The extortionate cost of childcare is one of the biggest barriers to employment and it wasn’t even mentioned by the Chancellor. With 41% of people receiving Universal Credit already in work, asking a further 600,000 people to meet with a work coach is not a sensible priority and there are now fears growing about new sanctions.
“We can see the UK government has made some attempts to ease the pain for families who have for too long been living in an inadequate social security system, drowning in debt and going without. But this needs to be the first step with lots more action to come, to turn rhetoric about compassion into action to make sure no child misses out because bills and food hollowed out family incomes.”
“It’s a place to go to get support when it’s really needed.”
“It’s given me more confidence than I have had in recent years and by building friendships and getting myself out of the house, my mental health has improved massively.”
“For my little girl, it’s her chance to play with her friends in a safe environment and knowing she is happy brings me joy and peace of mind.”
These are just some of the comments from parents who are taking part in coffee mornings run by Bettws Early Learning Community (ELC) in partnership with primary schools and community groups in the area.
The coffee mornings, known as the Biscuit Club, were set up a year ago as an informal weekly group where parents can meet, socialise and discuss any issues that they may need help with. It also provides a safe space for people to build relationships and connections in the community, which in turn is helping to improve mental health and wellbeing.
It is a key part of the work being carried out by Bettws ELC, supported by Save the Children Cymru, which is aiming to bring families and local organisations together to make sure children in Bettws are getting the support they need to thrive, learn and have the best possible start in life.
Kerstin Nott, Bettws ELC Project Officer, who runs the Biscuit Club, said, “The Biscuit Club is an opportunity for parents -with or without their children – to come together to chat, support each other and ask for help if they need it.”
“During the sessions we share fun tips on how they can play with their children, as well as signposting them to support from other community-led projects such as local food banks and family information services about childcare and benefits.”
“Listening to some of the stories they are willing to share about their lives such as how they are struggling with the cost-of-living crisis or worrying about accessing support to help their children can be hard to hear but by sharing these concerns it means we can do our best to provide the help they need and the group provides understanding and emotional support too.”
The Biscuit Club provides an opportunity for local services such as housing associations, health visitors and family information officers to attend and offer advice and help to parents and their children.
It also offers a range of practical courses to help families such as how to write CVs, learn digital skills or make healthy food go further on a budget.
There are four clubs available each week;
- Bettws in Bloom, Lambourne Way, Monday 9.30am – 11.30am
- Millbrook Primary School, Parret Road, Tuesday 9.25am – 10.15am
- Monnow Primary School, Darent Close, Wednesday 9.15am – 10.15am
- Ysgol Gymraeg Ifor Hael, Clos Meon Thursday 9.15am – 10.15am
Families who attend the clubs often suggest activities and information they would find useful.
For many, such as Emma who attends the group regularly, it offers support and a place to make friends for her and her daughter.
She said, “Biscuit Club means a lot to me, because it is a place to go to chat with and relate to other parents. I’m not from Bettws, so before Biscuit Club, I didn’t know anyone and felt really isolated. Now Biscuit Club is in my life, I’ve made new friends and don’t feel as isolated as I was.”
Kerstin added; “We know the Biscuit Club is making a difference. Communities are resilient, especially when people come together and with the support of our partners and local services, we can make sure their voices bring about change.”
“To quote one of the parents after a session with our team: “Now we feel heard.”
*For further information on the Bettws Early Learning Community project, visit https://bettwselc.org.uk/
For further information please contact Alison Watkins – Save the Children Cymru on email@example.com or 07854 386054.
Early Learning Community Programme in Bettws
- Bettws housing estate and ward in Newport is one of the most deprived areas in Wales where the child poverty rate is 42%. This means that many children living in Bettws face disadvantages compared to their peers across Wales impacting negatively for children across a range of areas such as health, wellbeing, education and future life prospects.
- Save the Children Early Learning Communities programme in Bettws aims to improve early learning outcomes for children in the area and has engaged over 80 stakeholders including three local primary schools, Monnow Primary School, Millbrook Primary School and Ysgol Gymraeg Ifor Hael; parents and children, Newport City Council, Welsh Government, health visitors, police, young offenders team and housing associations.
Save the Children in Wales
Save the Children works in Wales and around the world to give children a healthy start in life, and the chance to learn and be safe.
For further information about our work in Wales visit: www.savethechildren.org.uk/wales