‘Putting communities and families in the driving seat’ - Conference June 2019


‘Putting communities and families in the driving seat’ was the theme of a conference in Belfast in June marking five years of the Reaching Out, Supporting Families Programme. This programme, funded by the National Lottery Community Fund, has involved a £25 million investment in thirty six projects supporting ‘ordinary families to deal with extraordinary challenges’.

Projects have supported families to deal with physical or intellectual disability, bereavement and other adversities that can bring about exclusion, stigma, and isolation.

Over the course of the day an audience of over 200 practitioners, parents, policy makers and funders heard about the story of the Programme so far. Projects shared learning about the impact of their work. Parents spoke about the support from the organisations involved which helped them to deal with the challenges they faced.

CES shared findings from an interim evaluation of the Programme, which shows parents gaining confidence, along with learning and knowledge to support their children. Reports and data show parents engaged with projects had gained better understanding of their children’s learning and development, and improved communications skills.

A panel of policy makers from government departments discussed key messages emerging from the day, and their implications for policy.

‘Everything has improved, family meetings, more healthy dinners, less time in my room and more time spent with mum.’ (Family First, Women’s Aid ABCLN)
‘We also saw the potential for flexibility and collaboration – we knew projects could be stronger and have more impact working together. It has been encouraging to see how the partnerships, both formal and informal, have developed over the years.’ (Kate Beggs, National Lottery Community Fund, Northern Ireland)