Families much happier thanks to befriending service

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​Successful scheme shows the link between befriending and happiness

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4th November 2016 by Susan Smith 0 Comments

A unique befriending service in Lanarkshire has proven a remarkable success, significantly improving the lives of young people and their parents.

The Pathways to Confidence programme, run by Covey Befriending and Bellshill and Mossend YMCA, wanted to helped disadvantaged young people in the area but has ended up boosting the happiness their whole families.

An evaluation of the service, which offers befrienders and mentors to both young people aged eight to 14 and their carers in Bellshill, Uddingston, Hamilton and Blantyre, has found it has led to significant improvements in lifestyle choices, engagement with school, healthy eating, socialising and quality time spent with family members.

It has been so heartening to see the impact on the young people and their families - Rhoda Reid

What’s more, the benefits of Pathways to Confidence have often becoming greater over time.

Young people’s attitudes towards school, aspirations for the future and lifestyles all showed an improvement after six months of befriending support with the increase maintained at 12 months.

Adults supported by the project experienced significantly improved mental wellbeing after six months and an even greater boost after a year.

There was a marked reduction in anxiety, depression and irritability in parents as their length of involvement increased. This was also demonstrated by increased confidence and self-awareness, reduced isolation and less risk-taking behaviours, such as substance misuse.

One single mum interviewed by researchers said: “When I had to stop work through physical, I think that’s what put me down, I ended up staying in the house and not going out at all anymore. I had had a good social life.

“When I say to my weans now I’m going out with Vicki, they ask who is Vicki and I’ll say ‘my pal’ and they say ‘you’ve not got any pals, what you talking about?’ At the end of the day it’s nice to have someone there.”

Working in partnership with Airdrie Citizens Advice Bureau, the service has also helped around 20 families gain a total of £16,000.

One mum explained: “I was having problems with my benefits, I hate phoning anybody. I went without money for a few months at Christmas time, just because I couldn’t be doing with it. Every time I went on the phone, it was a queue and then when I got them, it was all these different things and I just got frustrated and hung up on them.

“When Debbie came she took over it and sorted it all for me. Aye, she was good at that, she would just lift the phone and let you know it isn’t a big deal.”

Rhoda Reid, project leader at Covey Befriending, said the organisation was delighted with the results of the project

She said: “Pathways to Confidence was an entirely new concept with partnership working at the heart. In the two years of operation it has been so heartening to see the impact on the young people and their families.

“In addition to continuation funding for the areas we cover at the moment there is real potential to see this grow and develop; firstly throughout Lanarkshire and beyond this seeing this model being replicated across the country”.

The Pathways to Confidence programme was funded by the William Grant Foundation through Foundation Scotland. Its £440,000 three-year grant, which runs until September 2017, has been the biggest single grant from the foundation.

The evaluation was carried by North Lanarkshire Psychological Services.

Ben and his gran

As a result of trauma and loss, Ben’s family was left isolated, had extremely low confidence and were generally not coping.

The main carer, Ben’s grandmother, had low confidence, didn’t leave the house and had a poor relationship with Ben.

Ben thought that having a befriender would be boring but quickly changed his mind. Given that his gran was unable to take him out, he simply hoped to have a friend that would enable him do all of the fun things he aspired to.

The positive change in Ben has not gone unnoticed by his teachers, noting that he has matured. Ben feels happier and not only developed a relationship with his befriender but also made a friend through other YMCA activities.

It is reassuring for Ben to have a friend who had a shared experience of loss and someone he can relate to.

Prior to her involvement with Pathways to Confidence, Ben's gran felt unable to leave the house, and her biggest hope was gaining the confidence to get out more frequently.

She recognised how pivotal this would be to regaining her self-esteem and for her relationship with Ben.

Over time, with support from the project coordinator and a volunteer mentor, gran gained in confidence and after nine months indicated that she now had the desire to go out. The significant change in gran was noticed by those around her, as many had said to her that they couldn’t believe the complete transformation.

Ben's gran has also been supported to seek advice from the Citizen’s Advice Bureau and now with the support of her family mentor regularly gets out and about.

She recognises how her enhanced wellbeing has helped her relationship with Ben. The family now make a point of sitting down together every night to have dinner and use the time as an opportunity to interact.

Thinking that any change to how she was feeling would have taken years given how low she was at the beginning of the project, Gran says: “It’s just been amazing. I never thought I would get so far as I have in so small a time”.