Category Archives: News

BBC Northern Ireland launch Christmas Appeal – Staying Connected – Overcoming Loneliness Together

Loneliness is something that many people will have experienced at some point in their lives. It can be difficult to talk about – and sometimes hard to overcome.

The Appeal aims to raise awareness of the effects of loneliness and provide information, support and advice on how everybody can do something – big or small – to help someone in need.

In a Christmas like no other in recent memory, BBC Northern Ireland is encouraging everyone to find different ways of saying hello and staying in touch with neighbours, friends or their wider family circle.

And whilst Covid-19 restrictions mean that we have to keep our distance, it remains more important than ever to stay connected – whether by phone, email, letter, social media or the BBC itself!

The appeal, which will run from Monday 7 December – Friday 11 December, is a joint initiative with a group of local charities including: Volunteer Now, Age NI, Parenting NI, Marie Curie, Barnardo’s NI, British Red Cross, Campaign To End Loneliness, Carers NI, Mencap NI and the Royal College of General Practitioners NI.

Charlene Brooks, Chief Executive of Parenting NI comments, “Parenting NI are delighted to be working in partnership with BBC Northern Ireland and the other charities on the Christmas Appeal ‘Staying Connected at Christmas – overcoming loneliness, together’.  This year, more than ever before, parents and grandparents have been telling us their experiences of loneliness. We know that this can have a negative impact not only on their own well being but also on their children and other family members. It is therefore more important than ever to encourage anyone struggling to reach out – to friends, family members, faith groups or organisations such as Parenting NI. We are all here to help and no one should ever have to feel alone.”

Fronting the campaign this year is BBC News NI’s Tara Mills. She says: “I think this year has brought loneliness and isolation into very sharp focus. The good thing is that many of us have got to know our neighbours better, but it has also shown that loneliness affects people of all ages.

“In our programmes I talk to people every day who are helping their family and friends, their neighbours and colleagues. We can provide company on the radio in particular, but as a community we have to do more and keep up the new social contacts we all built in the lockdown. Is there anyone you could call or write a letter to? Sometimes the simplest things have the greatest impact.

“One of the most touching stories I heard was a young woman who befriended her 94-year-old neighbour during lockdown. They’ve now become great friends and have both gained enormously from the new relationship.”

Mark Adair, Head of Corporate and Community Affairs, BBC NI says: “Loneliness is an important issue and it’s something that many people have struggled with in this most difficult of years. Our Appeal is a joint initiative with local charities that have been doing innovative work in this area and we hope that it will facilitate a big conversation about loneliness and how it can be overcome. There are no easy solutions, but help is available and all of us can do something to stay connected with neighbours, friends, family.

“Just finding time to say ‘Hello’ could make a huge difference this Christmas. And whilst Covid-19 may require us to keep our distance, it doesn’t mean that we can’t reach out to others in a ‘virtual embrace’.”

There’ll be stories, features and reports about loneliness across the BBC’s airwaves.

Now, more than ever, it is important for all of us to stay connected this Christmas.

For more information about the Appeal’s charity partners and how to get involved visit: bbc.co.uk/niappeals.

Get involved with #stayingconnected

Families Together Project in Antrim and Strabane draws to a close after five highly successful years in local schools.

The Families Together Project is a 5-year transformative project deployed in schools within Antrim and Strabane. The project was headed by Parenting NI in partnership with Action Mental Health New Life and with financial support from the National Lottery Community Fund. The project was initially deployed in six schools within Antrim and Strabane which included Sion Mills Primary School, Ballycraigy Primary School, Six Mile Integrated Primary School, Parkhall Primary School, St Catherine’s Primary School & St Mary’s Primary School. The project was able to provide support for an additional 4 schools across the two areas however unfortunately ends this November after five incredible years working within local schools.

A principal remarks on the project;

“It’s hard to imagine the school without them – they’re part of the school now and an important part of our annual pastoral action plan.”

Parenting NI has been providing parenting services across Northern Ireland since 1979 in the belief that effective parenting is the cornerstone of strong families, and that parents should be supported to enable them to provide children with a positive upbringing. Parents are a primary influence on their children and that influence can either be negative or positive depending on the quality of the parenting (Campbell, 1995). The Families Together project was designed around these principles in order to holistically strengthen these relationships. Strabane and Antrim were selected as the two areas for the project because of the high level of disadvantage. Primary schools within the most disadvantaged parts of Strabane and Antrim were invited to become partner schools with Parenting NI to form the Families Together Project.

Once a year, the Families Together Project would host a Family Fun Day in Antrim and Strabane with a variety of local agencies joining in to provide fun activities for families as well as information on local support services. The project hosted a large number of activities, parenting classes, parent & child workshops and counselling sessions for parents and their children within each school. These included the ‘Time for Parents’ Support and Counselling service and ‘Time for Me’ informal listening and signposting sessions and Time Together for the parents and their children. Families Together ran a variety of free parenting workshops for participating schools. These topics ranged from subjects such as Relaxation, Handling Children’s Behaviours and Healthy Choices. The programme ran numerous child workshops, a Parenting Café for parents to informally meet one another and a highly successful Walking Group.

One of the school principals remarks on the programme;

“I am struck by the diversity of needs and parents being engaged – not just those who are always targeted because of high needs, but also fathers and people of different social backgrounds. This is de-stigmatising.”

Over the 5-year duration of the project, the engagement of the schools and families involved in the programme has grown significantly. This has been particularly noticeable with families who lacked confidence in their parenting ability and self-esteem. Parenting NI and the Families Together Project are delighted to celebrate all the great work and engagement the parents, families, children and the teachers in each school have brought to the project over the past five years.

One parent remarked on the programme:

“It’s like a wee lifeline. A good experience – brilliant and highly recommended. I’m definitely more confident as a parent and I have a better support system.”

Parental Experiences and Attitudes on Post-Primary Academic Selection during the COVID-19 Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to an unprecedented disruption to the education of children in Northern Ireland. While this has had a dramatic impact on all children, there has been a particular focus on those facing important exams. While sector-wide policies have been enforced for both GCSE and A-level results, this has not been the case for Northern Ireland’s unique third examination period – the post-primary transfer.

One key result of this lack of government mandated policy has been regional variation. While some schools have indicated that they intend to continue with selection without adjustment, several others have decided to either drop or amend selection methods for this year. This decentralised response to the crisis has left parents and children in a uniquely challenging situation, without precedent.

This paper sought to gather a snapshot of parental concerns and views regarding post-primary transfer in the pandemic period. The findings of this demonstrate a wide range of very strongly held views, and a lack of consensus on almost any aspect of post-primary transfer both in the pandemic and more generally. Parents were deeply divided on core issues such as:

• Whether the transfer test should go ahead this year;

• Whether the transfer test should exist at all;

• Whether academic selection by any means should be a component of Northern Ireland’s Education system.

Parents were often unambiguous and direct with their feedback. Those in favour of the transfer described it as “a necessary part of education” and said that altering it at this late stage was “deeply unfair”. However, some parents who opposed the tests described them as “almost a form of torture” and suggested that allowing the normal transfer process to take place in the shadow of COVID represented a “moral failing on behalf of the authorities”.

It is impossible to determine with such a small sample size how widely any of these beliefs are held. However, what is clear is that there are strong feelings regarding post-primary transfer that deserve to be examined in more detail.

To read & download the full report on Parental Experiences and Attitudes on Post-Primary Academic Selection during the COVID-19 Pandemic 2020, please click the button below. Published August 2020.

Read the report

Parents struggling with the additional pressure lockdown is putting on families

Leading parenting support charity launch findings from Parenting in a Pandemic Survey

A survey carried out with 439 parents in Northern Ireland shows many families are finding the current circumstances incredibly difficult. 78% of parents either agreed or strongly agreed that the pandemic had been difficult for them and their families. 74% agreed or strongly agreed it had been difficult for their children.

This crisis has presented a range of unique and challenging problems for families and parents. It has fundamentally altered society, and has forced many parents to adapt. Parents are particularly concerned about the stress and emotional impact and the loss of traditional routines, such as struggling to maintain bedtimes and structure during the day. 

Home schooling was another major cause of concern for parents. Half of parents felt that provision for their child's education had not be adequate during lockdown, with many describing feelings of guilt or anxiety about balancing home working and home schooling. Parents also suggested they were concerned about children falling behind as a result of lack of formal education. Parents are also unsure as to whether schools should be one of the first settings to return after lockdown, with 42% agreeing that schools should return and 58% feeling that they should not. 

A worryingly high number of parents suggested they were unaware of any support available to them. 63% of parents believe that the Northern Ireland government have not done enough to support and inform parents. 

Chief Executive at Parenting NI, Charlene Brooks, said,

"This is undoubtedly a very difficult experience for many families. Parents facing additional challenges such as lack of access to devices and poor internet provision, concerns about impact of isolation on mental health, and parents of children with additional needs have been hardest hit and in need of more support. It is therefore really concerning that many parents were unaware of support available to them. Parenting NI are suggesting that more should be done to make parents aware of existing help."

Interestingly, whilst parents are struggling there was a minority (just under 20%) who suggested that the crisis and associated lockdown had been, on the whole, a positive experience for their families. Some parents indicated that this unique period had offered them an unexpected opportunity to spend more time together and enjoyed strengthening their family bond. Reflecting on this Charlene said,

"I think in these most unusual times it has been encouraging to see families find the positives in this new way of life we have been adjusting to, spending more quality time together, sharing meals and generally bonding more as a family. At Parenting NI we would encourage families to consider if any of these positives can be made to maintained, even after the crisis is over. We hope that it might be an opportunity for employers, schools and families to work together to consider changes to working and education patterns and encourage a stronger value to be placed on parenting and families; which will have a positive impact on society as a whole."

Read the full report

Click to download the full report of the findings from the Parenting in a Pandemic Survey. Published May 2020.

Summary

Take a look at the key statistics from the Parenting in a Pandemic Survey. Published May 2020.

Parenting NI Statement on ‘Too Little, Too Late’ Report

Parenting NI welcomes the comprehensive review of the provision of SEN in mainstream schools completed by NICCY.

The key findings of the report mirror our own experiences of parents and caregivers struggling with a system that is under-resourced, opaque and slow. SEN needs were a major source of concern in our own research, such as the 2019 Big Parenting Survey.

We specifically welcome the recognition of the issues faced by parents in the report. In particular, the lack of communication with parents and caregivers involved in the SEN process and in SEN provision. This is an issue that parents and families raise with us on a regular basis with us. In addition, we recognise specific parental concerns such as parents feeling that children with dyslexia, or ASD are not being sufficiently supported . These are worries that are raised by parents contacting Parenting NI and will likely be familiar to any organisation supporting parents.

Parenting NI supports the call from the Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People, for an urgent systemic review of SEN provision within mainstream schools. In addition, Parenting NI echoes calls for a clearer framework for communication with parents and caregivers as outlined in recommendation 32 in particular.

Parenting NI commends NICCY on it’s hard work in producing this essential report, and calls upon all relevant bodies to implement its recommendations as soon as possible.

You can read the full report on NICCY’s website.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Parenting NI Statement Regarding COVID-19

Update from Parenting NI 

We are living in unprecedented times and it is important that we all look after ourselves and each other in these challenging circumstances.

Parenting NI provides support to parents and families throughout Northern Ireland, and the health and well-being of our staff as well as those in the communities which we offer services is of the utmost importance. Therefore we have made the decision to temporarily suspend direct services, effective as of Friday 20th March. These services will include programmes, Families Together services such as walking groups and parenting cafes, focus groups, home visiting and the Dads Project services such as Dads Talk and programmes.

We will continue to provide support via our Support Line which can be contacted on freephone 0808 8010 722 during the usual opening times of 9:30am – 3:30pm Monday – Thursday and 9:30am – 12:30pm Friday.  Our website which has a wide range of tips and guidance will be updated regularly and our Parent Support App will also still all be available.

At this stage, direct services (such as programmes) due to start week commencing 20th April will proceed as planned. However, as the situation continues to change quickly, we will continue to follow the guidance and advice of the Public Health Agency. I would encourage parents to keep an eye on our website for the latest on Parenting NI services in the coming weeks and also follow our social media channels which will continue to share information and support for parents.

Rest assured that Parenting NI will continue to explore new ways that parents can access support during this period. At the moment our priority is to safeguard parents, families and staff. We appreciate your understanding as we take precautions in part of the wider public effort to reduce the impact of the virus.

Further information

In line with government guidelines, and to protect the wellbeing of families and our staff, Parenting NI Head Office  will close from 5pm on Monday 23rd March until further notice. Parents and families will continue to be supported by telephone/web chat and email. With the closure of schools and children being at home, where needed, staff flexibility will allow the needs of those parents who may wish this support to be outside our normal hours of working. This will be agreed between the staff member and the parent.

The teams will also provide families with resources on family activities, Top Tips, practical support and tips on emotional wellbeing as well as ongoing weekly support either via calls or email.

Feedback from parents on this provision has been hugely positive as the team continue to provide this valuable service.

All parents have been informed of the postponement of programmes and workshops and will be made aware of new dates of commencement when the time is right.

We are still available to take referrals based on this temporary means of providing support from all professionals across Northern Ireland. We would ask that all referrals are made via email to our help@parentingni.org address. Referral forms are available to download and further guidance offered here.

Take care,
Charlene Brooks
Parenting NI CEO

Talking to your children about COVID-19

Read Parenting NI's latest article with advice on talking to your children about Coronavirus, including videos on the importance of hand washing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Parents concerned about the effects of technology on their children, don’t feel they get enough support

Leading parenting support charity have launched the findings from the second Big Parenting Survey with a specific focus on technology’s impact on modern parenting

A survey carried out with 1,358 parents across Northern Ireland in the 2019 has found that parents remain concerned about their children’s future. 69% of parents are more worried than hopeful about parenting in the future – a 3% increase compared to 2018’s figures. 82% of survey participants said they do not feel parents get enough support, showing no improvement compared to last year at all.

Parents expressed deep concern about the role technology plays in their children’s lives. 75% felt is had a “significant” impact on their children’s wellbeing, 71% found it difficult to monitor and only 23% felt they get enough support on technology. Parents expressed particular concerns about smartphones and social media.

Jenny Smithson, a mother to 3 daughters, spoke of her parenting experiences,

“Smartphones and social media are incredibly concerning for parents. My girls are dabbling on the edges for now - going on YouTube, playing a few games, researching for school. However, I still wonder about how we equip them for this place full of great possibilities and knowledge, but where there are many dangers.

“I don’t want my girls to be caught in the trap of living out their social interactions online, of comparing their lives, relationships, and bodies with the fake world that these things celebrate. I know that the main responsibility for protection in this area (as in all areas) lies with us, the parents, and so I feel that any support that can be provided for parents is really valuable.”

Maria Rogan, Director for Training and Development at Parenting NI said,

“This year’s findings, mirroring last years, remain a deep cause for concern. Parents have made it very clear that on a range of issues – mental health, technology and childcare to name a few – not enough is being done. A pervasive feeling of worry has taken root in Northern Irish parents, and policy makers need to act urgently to address their concerns. The return of elected, locally accountable government offers a chance to improve things, and we call upon all parties to act swiftly.”

Read the full report

Click to download the full report of the findings from the Big Parenting Survey 2019. Published February 2020.

Executive Summary

Take a look at the key statistics from the Big Parenting Survey 2019. Published February 2020.

Parenting NI Support Line Win Brendan Bonner Award for Innovation at Helplines NI Awareness Day

The leading, local parenting support charity has been recognised for innovation in their Parenting Support Line with a special award from Helplines NI.

The Helplines Network NI held their annual NI Helplines Awareness Day at Parliament Buildings on Wednesday 5th February 2020. The Network, which was founded in 2013, is a member-led organisation of over 30 helplines operating across Northern Ireland brought together by the Public Health Agency (PHA) who recognise the value of helplines.

The Network members provide a variety of vital support services including information, advice, counselling, crisis intervention, a listening ear and befriending, covering a wide range of needs and issues.

The event celebrated the impact and value of helplines in Northern Ireland. Parenting NI were delighted to be the first recipients of the Helplines NI Brendan Bonner Award for Innovation, which was presented at the event in the Long Gallery at Stormont.

Parenting NI has provided information, support and guidance to thousands of parents primarily through its Helpline for 41 years. Despite losing funding to deliver the Regional Parenting Helpline in early 2019, the charity re-evaluated the delivery of the invaluable service and continues to provide a Freephone Support Line which acts as a portal into a range of Parenting NI services, as well as offer specialist support on more complex issues that parents share.

On receiving the award, Director for Family Support Services at Parenting NI, Muriel Bailey said

“We are over the moon to have received this award from Helplines NI and Public Health Agency. The Parenting NI team of staff and volunteers are incredibly dedicated and committed to supporting parents and ensuring they have access to high quality services.

Our service has developed and diversified further to ensure it meets the changing needs of families across Northern Ireland, using technology and digital solutions, such as the first of its kind Parenting Support App, podcasts and online resources. Parenting NI are delighted to have been awarded this accolade and wish to thank those who support the charity’s work. Our vision of the future is one where parenting is highly valued and we will continue to provide support for parents in order to ensure this becomes a reality.”

 

 

 

 

Photo Exhibition Focuses on Fathers at Stormont


The Parenting NI Dads Project has an exhibition of photographs, ‘Men as Dads’ on display in The Long Gallery at Parliament Buildings. (Back left to right – Derek Doherty, Cahir Murray (Dads Project Coordinator), Kenneth Dunlop, Catherine Kelly MLA, Chris Eisenstadt (Parenting NI Policy and Research Officer). Front left to right – Mura McKinney (Men as Dads Photographer) and Paul McCorry. 

The ‘Men as Dads’ Exhibition is a collection of images which portrays positive images of fathers. Local charity Parenting NI and their Dads Project worked on the project with local photographer, Mura McKinney, to help celebrate dads as positive role models and the unique contribution they make to their children’s lives.

Photographer Mura McKinney who offered her skills and time to Parenting NI and the Dads Project to take on the ‘Men as Dads’ project.

The Parenting NI Dads Project is a National Lottery Community Fund NI funded initiative which supports dads in Northern Ireland, in particular dads who are separating or separated. The Dads Project promotes dads being engaged and involved in their children’s lives, helping dad’s to develop more confidence in their parenting ability and to build positive connections with other dads in a similar position within their community.  

Cahir Murray, the Dads Project Coordinator, said,
“This has been a fantastic way for us to creatively explore the positives of being a dad in Northern Ireland’s society. We wanted to help dads build up their understanding of their value and the important role they have as fathers.

It was great to have some of the dads who have been involved with the project in the pictures and giving them the opportunity to confidently highlight what they love about fatherhood.”

Dads Project Coordinator, Cahir Murray, looking at one of the images in the exhibition with dads Kenneth Dunlop and Paul McCorry

Catherine Kelly MLA launched the exhibition at Stormont this week and said,
“I’m delighted to be able to help launch ‘Men as Dads’ Exhibition here in the Long Gallery.  The photos of the dads and their children depict the special bond of a father and his child.  

I believe it important to support this project and commend Parenting NI on their work with the Dad’s Project and I encourage everyone to visit the Exhibition as it travels across the North this year.”

The exhibition will be on display in The Long Gallery at Parliament Buildings until 10th February 2020. Following its launch in the Verbal Arts Centre in Derry late last year, the exhibition will be touring around Northern Ireland throughout 2020.  

Celebrating Support for Working Parents

Parenting NI partnered with Allen & Overy to mark the annual Parenting Week with a business breakfast event focusing on support for parents in the workplace on Tuesday 22nd October.

It’s often said that being a parent is the most important job you will ever have, but for a lot of parents it’s not their only job which can make striking a balance between work and family life difficult. More than half admit to feeling “burnt out” with work as the primary cause.

Local parenting support charity, Parenting NI, have been working with businesses across Northern Ireland to provide workplace support for parents and are delighted to be working with Allen & Overy in showcasing good practice in family friendly policies.

Director for Training and Development at Parenting NI, Maria Rogan said with the amount of different pressures on modern families it’s important that there’s a shift in workplace culture,

“Employers who support and respond to the needs of working parents are helping to shape a workplace for an evolving workforce. We are delighted to be working with Allen & Overy, who have been named in the top 30 Family Friendly Employers 2019, to highlight how supporting your parent employees is beneficial to business.”

Barry O’Donnell, IT Manager with Allen & Overy, was supported by his employer throughout his adoption process.

“Allen & Overy were on the journey with me from the beginning of the process right through to the end, which in our case was 41 months!” Barry explained, “I got great support from both my management team and HR. One to one support and flexible working helped to ease the pressure and allowed me to focus on the fostering and adoption process.

“They continually kept in touch to ensure I had everything I needed. They helped me access Shared Parental Leave and worked closely with my husband’s employer, making a complex process easier to navigate. They also ensured that the process was reviewed to support others who may follow the same path in the future.

“Upon returning to work I’m still supported by the company.  I have access to a programme of health and wellbeing initiatives and the Allen & Overy Family Network hosts regular seminars and events like this one to support parents. My employer’s support has been invaluable.”

It is hoped that the event helped open up a wider conversation about the importance of support and flexibility for working parents at every stage of their parenting journey. Further information about the support Parenting NI can offer employers can be found here.