By Kathy Darling, Big Lottery Fund Communications Assistant
The £25 million Reaching Out: Supporting Families programme will tackle some of the issues affecting families across Northern Ireland including addiction, poverty, mental ill-health and separation.
Supporting Families will award grants of between £500,000 and £700,000 to projects that will help families to improve their children’s lives by building strong and nurturing relationships.
The programme will support children under the age of 12 and their families facing a range of challenges. And for the first time some projects will have the chance to apply for funding for up to seven years to ensure that the families they are working with receive longer term support.
Projects funded will support a wide range of activities such as getting parents more involved in their children’s learning, work to reduce family isolation from the wider community and programmes that will strengthen family relationships.
Single mum Eimhear McCann from Belfast says the support network offered to her by her son’s nursery school prevented her from getting caught in the benefit trap. Eimhear received support from the Our Shared Vision project run by the Belfast Education and Library Board with a grant of just under £1 million from the Big Lottery Fund.
“My marriage had broken up and I was left at home with three young children. I could have easily stayed on the sofa but my son’s nursery school, Naíscoil an tSléibhe Dhuibh, got me involved in courses and I found my way back to education and have now got a job in the same school which turned my life around.”
Eimhear, says with her own job, a car and a house now and lots to look forward to it was taking part in courses and activities run for parents by the school which gave her back her confidence, helped her make new friends and find her pathway in life.
“I am unrecognisable from the person I was a few years ago and if it can happen to me, then with the right support it can happen to anyone.”
Joanne McDowell, the Big Lottery Fund NI Director, said: “I am delighted to be able to launch details of our Supporting Families programme. It is understood and accepted that offering help sooner rather than later can make a big difference to outcomes for children, young people and families.
“So we want this new programme to improve the lives of children and their families by strengthening the relationships with those that look after them. We know a lot of good work is already happening in Northern Ireland and we would like to see organisations coming together in partnership to develop strong projects that will reach out to those families who need the most support.”
To find out more about the Reaching Out: Supporting Families programme visit: http://www.biglotteryfund.org.uk