International Day of Families – The unseen heroes who help Scottish families get back on their feet – The Herald

At the Wise Group, our mentors support families everyday. The Herald have written an article about our relational mentoring approach. Read below:

When a young girl stops attending school there is always a reason. When a family becomes so consumed by debt they nearly lose their home, there is a reason. When a young man returns to crime after a prison sentence, there is a reason too. While the trigger might be obvious in some cases, in others there can be complex issues which are more difficult to first identify and rectify.

And at a time when public service budgets and resources are so stretched, the support required is not always there. That is why it is more important than ever that there is a safety net to catch those who
would otherwise fall through the cracks.

At the Wise Group that is precisely what our fantastic network of mentors aims to do.

Founded more than 40 years ago in Glasgow, our social enterprise supports thousands of individuals and families across Scotland every year. And with the pandemic and cost-of-living crisis, there are more and more people seeking our help.

Today (Wednesday the 15th) the United Nations marks the International Day of Families. The day hopes
to promote awareness of social, economic and demographic issues facing families around the world.

At the Wise Group we know the power of family. And we recognise that when we work with individuals to improve their lives it is often a team effort.

And we know that changing just one life can have a positive impact on the entire family and the wider community too.

That is why our extraordinary team of mentors work with the whole household to inspire lasting and wider change.

Cameron Smith was one such girl. When she stopped going to school, initially she was just a part of a growing statistic of absences among teenage girls since Covid.

But when this absence stretched into several weeks she was referred to our No Limits programme which works with youngsters aged 13 to 17 who have a high level of absences and are at risk of being excluded.

Our mentors knew that Cameron was missing school for a reason – and often the causes can be complex, wide-ranging and involve the wider family. After building trust with her and her mother, we found that Cameron had been unable to shower at home for months as the family’s boiler had broken. Cameron had simply become too embarrassed to attend lessons.

Fixing a boiler might seem straightforward to some. But barriers of knowing where to access help, cost or even allowing a stranger into your home can be an issue for some. Our mentor was able to supply Cameron’s mother with the help she needed to get the boiler fixed. We also set her up with an energy advisor and made sure she had fuel vouchers too.

As a result, Cameron returned to school and is doing well.

In another case we supported a mother who came close to losing her home following the death of her partner. She was referred to us by her housing officer initially for community mentoring. But we realised out there was much more we could do for her and her children – from helping with grief to finding bikes for them to enjoy. And following on from our first contact we were able to provide further support through our employment services.

This is why we advocate a full-family approach to mentoring. Initially signposted to help just one individual, we were able to support and better the lives of everyone in the household.

To do this our team of social hero mentors are experienced at building relationships and trust. Some of those who provide our relational mentoring have been through similar programmes themselves and now pass on the lessons that helped them to others.

Our support is wide-ranging too. We have helped families save their homes, supported them through periods of financial difficulty and advised on how to manage their debt
We have also worked with people to help them acquire the daily skills needed to keep their families safe and healthy every day – such as providing access to first aid courses and cooking classes.

And while we are here to help – we are not here to do things for people. We offer guidance to empower families to help themselves. That is why building trust is so important. If Scottish families can trust us in the moments when life is at its most difficult, they can trust us when we know it is time for us to step back too. But that doesn’t mean we just walk away. Our mentors know that sometimes life has other bumps in store and people need a little advice every now and then.

And that’s why they really are the unseen heroes of our story. From the moment a referral comes, our mentors begin work contacting those that need our support.

Asking a simple question of ‘what do you need?’ and moving on from there.

This is not always easy. But the experienced and passionate team we have make sure we continue to deliver the best support we can. We also have our New Routes programme which works with men who are being released from prison sentences of under four years.

Our mentors begin working with individuals months before they are released to identify their needs as they hope to reintegrate back into the community – and their family. Again we seek a whole household approach and begin by helping identify the most basic of needs that must be met. From there we can refer to our other programmes to help upskill and find employment opportunity. And hopefully as we work through those needs, we not only help the person and their family, but also the whole community by reducing the chance of reconviction.

As we mark the International Day of Families here at The Wise Group, we know that no matter how many people we’ve helped so far there will always be more. That is why we are constantly challenging ourselves to learn and adapt so we can provide the support needed out there in communities across Scotland.

There is always a reason why someone is struggling, and we aim to identify and support those who need us through those challenges.

*Cameron’s name has been changed to protect her identity

Read the full article here: The unseen heroes who help Scottish families get back on their feet | The Herald (