CHANGE Blog – Seldom Heard Voices

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The CHANGE project is working to develop services for children and families living in Calton, Bridgeton, Parkhead, Dalmarnock, Tollcross and West Shettleston. Here, Project Officer, Anthony O’Malley, talks about the second phase of community engagement work carried out by CHANGE, which has been called Seldom Heard Voices.

Developing the Seldom Heard Voices approach

During the first year of the CHANGE project we spoke to almost 100 parents, carers and children about their experience of childcare services in Glasgow East. We used what families had told us to produce a report for our project partners and provided a summary on the CHANGE website here. This community engagement activity saw the emergence of six key themes that impacted on families accessing childcare. These were affordability, accessibility, availability, flexibility, relationships and information needs.

This first phase of engagement activities allowed us to establish a solid evidence base of family need in the area. In addition to this engagement with families, we had also begun to develop relationships with organisations working in the area already. From these discussions we now had some idea of the systems barriers that were in place that impacted on service delivery and what these groups required to support the growth of their service.

However, when reviewing our community engagement activity, the CHANGE Project Board was concerned that the majority of families we had spoken to were already engaged with childcare or other services within the community. It was agreed that we would develop a plan to make sure we had reached families who experienced additional barriers to engagement or access to services. A plan was drawn up and provided a framework for the second phase of our community engagement work.

What people told us

The initial stages of this engagement saw us meet with national and local organisations working with children and families who may be experiencing circumstances that made it more difficult for them to engage with the community, or to access childcare services. This allowed us to begin to establish relationships with some of these families living in Glasgow East who then took part in engagement sessions with us to share their views. This included groups and individuals made up of parents with learning disabilities, parents of disabled children, kinship carers, fathers, young parents, asylum-seeking and refugee families and families experiencing poverty.

Our learning from this phase of community engagement work is two-fold. Firstly, the key themes that emerged from phase one of our community engagement work were also present. Families, and the organisations representing them, regularly discussed affordability, availability, flexibility, accessibility, information needs and relationships and how these influenced their use of childcare services. However, there were two further key themes. Some groups said they experienced isolation when they were not engaged with community-based services, including childcare provision. The reasons for this varied widely depending on the circumstances of individual families. For example, parents with disabled children could become isolated due to a lack of available or nearby services that could support their child’s needs. Asylum-seeking and refugee families were more likely to become isolated due to locality and having no support network of family for friends nearby. There was a consensus among all of the families and organisations that we spoke to, that accessing regulated childcare services was beneficial for families, with reduced isolation being one of the key outcomes.

An additional topic raised was the benefits of early intervention and other support offered by childcare services. This linked closely to how services developed relationships with families. In the case of parents who had learning disabilities, they tended to be very reluctant to confide in staff or ask for help without having first established a large degree of trust. During our engagement with families and services, we repeatedly heard how important it was for families to receive support early and not at a point of crisis or when they had become isolated. Parents who were using, or had used, nurseries spoke of the particular level of support they had received from local authority nurseries.

Next steps

This phase of our community engagement work supported what we learned about barriers to childcare access in phase one, while identifying specific issues for some families. It has helped to make sure we have engaged with a wide cross-section of families and individuals living in Glasgow East.

The learning from this work will feed into our tests being run with our CHANGE Hub partners, while also informing our future planning for the development of services. This could include considerations around the quality of services or how services are delivered to families.

Contribute to CHANGE

We welcome and encourage input from anyone who has an interest in childcare or community wellbeing in Glasgow East. If you’d like to discuss this with a member of the CHANGE team please contact our Project Officer, Anthony O’Malley, or our Policy and Participation Officer, Alison Hay, Both Anthony and Alison are based in Glasgow East at least four days per week and are happy to chat to anyone who feels they have something to contribute to the project.