Episode 2 – Family Support

Last updated: 11/05/2022

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Our second episode features two family support workers in Glasgow talking about all the services on offer to single parents in Glasgow and nationally.

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Podcast transcript

Tariq Ali, OPFS 0:00
Welcome to the second edition of the OPFS podcast and today we are interviewing Molly and Cheryl from our Glasgow services. Molly, Cheryl, do you want to introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about yourselves?

Cheryl McDonald 0:16
Hi there, so I’m Cheryl McDonald. I’m a family support worker at One Parent Families Scotland. And I’ve been in the role since August. So I would still say I’m quite relatively new to the role. And, yep, I’m really enjoying it.

Molly Thomson 0:35
And I’m Molly and I work alongside Cheryl, pretty much every day, we speak and we are both based in the Glasgow office. And I also just came on to this role and in last August as well. So I think that’s about what, seven months now. And yes, it’s good we’re kept busy. And I think we both are enjoying it so far.

Tariq Ali, OPFS 0:59
That’s cool. Can you talk a little bit more about your role at OPFS. And the support that you give to single parent families?

Molly Thomson 1:06
Yeah, so we were both family support workers. So that would really mean, like it’s quite broad, isn’t it? It’s probably to sum it up, it would be like person-centred, I’d say probably wellbeing support to single parents across Glasgow, single mums and single dads and kinship carers as well. Yeah.

Cheryl McDonald 1:32
I think it’s, it’s quite hard to define the support we give because, as Molly saying, it’s person-centred, and it’s based on a kind of individual basis. You like to try and offer, obviously, in One Parent Families it’s a kind of holistic approach we take to supporting parents. So, you know, we’re open to various different types of support that we can offer. And I think that’s why it’s hard to kind of specify exactly the types of support we offer,

Molly Thomson 2:02
Yep, it would probably involve practical support. So helping people in crisis situations, putting them in touch with organisations that can maybe support them, specifically, whether that’s to do with their finances, you know, their mental health in any situation that they find themselves in, there’ll be an organisation that can probably specifically help them with that, and we would really look to make that referral. But we also run our own well-being groups and days out, and things like that, for parents to kind of come together and try and reduce isolation. So we definitely do a bit of everything I would say.

Cheryl McDonald 2:45
In terms of practical support, as well, we quite regularly with our clients, we meet our clients on a one-to-one basis, and we attend appointments with them, in some cases, we encourage them actually, you know, make appointments with things and by attenting them with them. I think that gives them that kind encouragement. So we do that. And as well, in terms of practical support. We help them to access that food banks clothing banks, if they need any items for their children, baby banks same. That type of thing.

Molly Thomson 3:18
Yeah, probably just expanding their knowledge and awareness of services that they can access themselves in the future as well. Yep.

Tariq Ali, OPFS 3:30
And how can single parent families, in Glasgow, register with yourselves?

Cheryl McDonald 3:36
Does various different mediums and we take self-referrals so that’s just obviously contacting the office. We received quite a lot of referrals through housing, housing support workers. We received referrals from social work, the schools in Glasgow, and we have got a relationship with Glasgow Life as well. So that’s like through nurseries. And I think they’re actually based in nursery schools. I think some community centres, sports centres, things like that, as well. And also we get a lot of referrals through Glasgow City Council through Glasgow helps. But if you can, obviously we’ve got our website and things like that. So people can make self-referrals then call up our helpline or they can contact our Glasgow office and they would be assessed or support needs would be assessed and then they would be referred to on one of the relevant departments.

Molly Thomson 4:40
It’s very easy to get in touch with the organisation just I guess, depending on where you live, just Google and if you’re Glasgow, there’s the Glasgow number and North Lanarkshire in Edinburgh and all over. You can also message on Facebook as well and someone would pick that up and someone would probably be in touch.

Tariq Ali, OPFS 5:01
And, if the parents have a English as a second language, for example, would you be able to offer like, additional support there for them?

Cheryl McDonald 5:13
Yeah, well, myself and Molly have worked with quite a few clients when English has been their second language. And we’ve actually worked with some clients that have very limited English. So we have, as well as having a close relationship with Glasgow City Council and they offer us an interpreting service. So, and, it’s really easy access. And then the person that runs it that I’ve worked with Will is just great with the clients and everything gets arranged quite quickly, so people don’t have to wait. So, as well, do you want to talk a bit about all the kind of support you’ve found for people seeking asylum as well?

Molly Thomson 5:57
Yeah, there’s various organisations in Glasgow, that if English isn’t your first language, they will have people working for that service who you know, is fluent, or also from the area that that parent is from. So they’ll be able to support them. And, we’ve got kind of Scottish Refugee Council, Refuweegee we’ve got a good relationship with, British Red Cross. There’s, there’s loads. So, if English is not your first language, if we can support you, then we can get an interpreter but if not, there’ll be a place that we can work with to support you.

Cheryl McDonald 6:34
And I would definitely say we are really working to kind of break down barriers for people that English isn’t the first language because our groups as well are really diverse, really diverse. And as well as we said, we do various things we refer onto other organisations, we’ve got an interpreting service. Some of our documentation, we’ve translated into Arabic and different languages, same for client’s as well to be more at ease. So it’s definitely something that, you know..

Molly Thomson 7:06
I think moving forward, you just we have to be so inclusive, and Glasgow such a diverse place as well. So, we will, I mean, I think just being in Glasgow, and not being able to speak English, English is just a huge barrier for people looking to access support. So, our kind of first point of call, there would be right, what services are out there for this individual that will really kind of prioritise the fact that they, you know, maybe can’t speak English fluently? And how can they support them?

Cheryl McDonald 7:39
I think as well as just highlighting, and, you know, to people that are from a different country, just the supports that are in place in Scotland, because that’s a thing that you find out until, like, a lot of people aren’t aware of what supports they, they can actually get. And I just think it’s great that we can offer that, you know, we’ve got the availability to make people aware of what’s available. So, yep. And it’s great for us, how much have we learned from other people, but different cultures and things like that, within our groups? It’s been really, it’s been really interesting.

Tariq Ali, OPFS 8:10
Do you think the diverse groups like helps that, like building up relationships, like within those groups, and different..

Cheryl McDonald 8:19
I would say, 100 percent. Yeah, and as well, it’s just like, people just show so much empathy for people, you know, from different cultures and the challenges that some other people face in different cultures and different countries. And I think as well, as you were saying, it’s just so humbling isn’t it?

Molly Thomson 8:38
And we have a an our well-being group that we do every week, and we had kind of two parents come in, both of them facing a lot of isolation living in Glasgow, and they were from the same country and a tiny, tiny country. And neither of them knew anyone else living in Glasgow from this country. So straightaway, they were able to connect from the fact that they’re from the same place, brought up in that same place, and we’re able to kind of exchange numbers and keep in touch. And that’s just so nice for us to see, isn’t it? How you can just a small wellbeing grip like that can just bring people together and form like friendships, relationships.

Cheryl McDonald 9:18
And again, really work in reducing the isolation and loneliness that lots of single parents face, but I think that’s heightened when they’re from a different culture or from a different country so that’s really good.

Tariq Ali, OPFS 9:30
We know that single parent, young single parent families are worse off per month under Universal Credit, because rules have changed. So that single parents under 25 receive less than over 25’s. So do you see this having an impact on, like, young parents that you work with?

Molly Thomson 9:47
I think the money that they aren’t receiving because of their age, I mean, that could be if you’re a family of if you’re a single parent, you’ve got two kids. I mean, that could be a food shop per week. And that’s just an example of, you know, how they are, how they might be worse off.

Cheryl McDonald 10:05
But I think what we see with the parents that we work with that are over 25. And the challenges they face for Universal Credit, it’s, it’s looking at that from a prospect of having 60, so, you know, being worse off. So I think that kind of highlights how difficult it must be for young parents with, a kinda, with the universal credits.

Molly Thomson 10:30
And they’re doing the exact same job, aren’t they, as someone who’s over the age of 25.

Cheryl McDonald 10:34
Definitely, I think as well it can be more challenging because they would, even in terms of work, and they would get paid less if they’re under 25, as well and they’re getting less universal credit. So it’s, it’s a kind of it’s that impact as well, it would have.

Tariq Ali, OPFS 10:49
Now that the the restrictions are easing around COVID, are you seeing, managing to see a difference? And young single parent families? Or, just like single parent families in general are the more eager to access services and like groups?

Molly Thomson 11:06
Yeah, I think the groups are probably the most challenging, I would say. I think there’s still quite a lot of anxiety, a lot of social anxiety for single parents who have maybe spent lockdown at home with their kids, the thought of coming into the city centre, and sitting in a room full of strangers is probably quite daunting for them. But as family support workers, we would really try and build up a relationship with them, to get them to the point where they felt comfortable enough to come in. So that would be meeting up with them one-on-one first, or scheduling like some telephone appointments, and really just building up that relationship with them first. So that then they can come to these groups and meet the other parents and feel less isolated. Yeah, we’ve definitely seen, I think..

Cheryl McDonald 11:51
I think because we’ll just obviously due to COVID, so much stuff was closed down. And like the libraries, in kinda, with reading group, same, you know, IT sessions or that sort of stuff, stuff that really, our parents really benefit from accessing. And that was all kind of that was all closed down. Particularly when me and Molly first started in our roles. So things you were trying to access, it was impossible. So now, I think like that with the libraries opening up more and offering more, the programmes are up and running again, I think that surely going to have a great impact for our families particularly.

Molly Thomson 12:28
Yep. And I think as well, that lockdown in a way and having to isolate from your home, sometimes highlighted, like the levels of poverty in Glasgow, not everyone has got access to Wi-Fi, a working laptop, or a tablet. So it’s wasn’t always very inclusive for parents and young parents to be able to engage with each other online. Whereas, if we meet up with a person face-to-face, we’ll choose somewhere that’s really easy for them to access, local to them, meet up with them or be completely free for them, you know, and they’re kind of not having to be out of pocket at all for that. So that’s just another way. Another reason why going back to face-to-face is just so much better. And hopefully it stays this way.

Tariq Ali, OPFS 13:11
Do you think the digital divide that you mentioned, has decreased somewhat like since the onset of the pandemic?

Cheryl McDonald 13:18
I would say? I would say, I think so because the you know, what we have access for parents in terms of digital inclusion, I think it’s just amazing. I think most clients, we work with, we’ve been able to access a device and MiFi and things like that. So I think it would significantly have decreased due to the pandemic.

Molly Thomson 13:39
Yeah. And it’s things as well, that you don’t think about in the pandemic, you’re sitting at home, 24/7, you’re using your gas and electricity and your bills are high. And I know that bills are high, just now anyway, but in lockdown as well, you weren’t. People were not leaving their houses. So for a young single parent, with maybe two or three kids on their own having to, you know, pay their bills and pay for their Wi-Fi and pay for these kinds of devices. It was a huge cost for them. So if we can support people to be able to manage these costs in any way, then we will definitely do that here.

Tariq Ali, OPFS 14:17
Like I know the restrictions are easing and more groups are happening in person. But will there still be the option to attend the groups like virtually? Or, like, on Zoom?

Cheryl McDonald 14:29
Yeah, I think we’re working because some clients would actually prefer the Zoom. And a lot of clients we work with, have got social anxiety and stuff like that. So aren’t really comfortable in group settings, or meeting out in the community. So it is an option we have for clients, yeah, definitely.

Molly Thomson 14:49
Yeah, we’d always give someone the option as well, like people’s mobility, they’re not always able to get out and about, get on buses walk to places so we can set-up a Zoom call or a telephone appointment with anyone. And we had the bad weather a couple of weeks ago, we just did a Zoom call for the group, which worked well. So we’re, we can adapt quite quickly, I think.

Cheryl McDonald 15:13
I think that’s one of the good things to come from the pandemic is that, you know, we can adapt now. So if we do have to cancel a group, we don’t have to let anyone down. We don’t have to let any of our clients down, we can still connect with them, see them, check in with them, you know, we can put on groups. So I think that’s definitely the one positive to come out of this situation.

Tariq Ali, OPFS 15:34
And is there anything else that you’d like to say? Or talk about?

Molly Thomson 15:39
I think, I mean, I’m not I’m not a parent, so I kind of came into this role, really not having a clue what to expect. But I think just I’ve definitely realised that I think there’s not a lot of support for single parents and being a single parent. And, you know, in a family, you’ve got usually got, like, two parents, but if you’re a single parent, you are having to do literally everything yourself, and I definitely didn’t realise before this role, just the kind of burden that was on people in doing that, I think single parents are some of the strongest people that we’ve probably came across.

Cheryl McDonald 16:18
Yeah, definitely. And I think as well, that’s what, well from my prospects for working with single parents, I think what you would like to see is more support, and again, not particularly for single parents, and coming out of the pandemic as support for people’s kind of mental health and well-being, because that’s one of the main kind of themes isn’t it? Every kind of family we work with, and it’s not just parents, it’s more and more the children and adolescents. And that’s one thing, I think, myself and Molly and family support workers struggle with access and services for young people. And, you know, for young people’s mental health, we predominantly work with parents, and not so much children. But a lot of our parents, you know, obviously, as a parent, you’re impacted with your child’s mental health and things like that. So that’s something I think we would like to see a lot more support for.

Molly Thomson 17:16
Yep, and they’re still I mean, there’s still so much stigma towards single parents, especially single mums. And I think this organisation in particular, just the support we offer is definitely trying to overcome that kind of stigma that still exists every single day.

Cheryl McDonald 17:35
I think even in general conversations we have, we identify the kind of barriers that single parents face, and that’s just in like everyday life, everyday conversations. From finding employment or child care and child care, buying a house or renting a house in or getting accommodation. It’s just, it just comes up doesn’t it in every kind of aspect. And it’s as if society is designed for two people, two parents. And I think that’s something that, you know, I think as a society, we’d like to kind of break down the barriers and make it more open and accepting to single parents.

Tariq Ali, OPFS 18:14
Thank you, Molly. And thank you, Cheryl, for your time today.

Cheryl McDonald 18:18
Thank you. It’s been lovely speaking to you.

Molly Thomson 18:20
Thanks for having us on.