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First of its kind support project breaks the £1million threshold

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An innovative Renfrewshire support programme – the first of its kind in Scotland – has hit a major target of putting £1million into the pockets of local families in support they didn’t know they were entitled to.

The neighbourhood-based programme, Families First, has run core teams in Ferguslie – Scotland’s most deprived datazone – and in Linwood, since October 2013, and is set to launch another three this year.

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Its part of Renfrewshire’s early years strategy and aims to give children a better start in life through a stronger focus on early years intervention and on-the-ground support for their families.

Councillor Jacqueline Henry, Renfrewshire Council’s Convener for Education and Children said: “Putting £1million into the pockets of local households is incredibly positive for the families who received support, and is a key part of our drive to tackle poverty. Independent research by Glasgow University into our two teams concluded they had a ‘profound impact’ on the lives of families in Ferguslie and Linwood – and it’s clear to see why this is the case.

“When we set up our Families First teams almost two years ago, we wanted a fresh and innovative way to improve children’s life chances while ‘walking with’ their families to help them achieve their full potential. No two Families First stories are the same. The teams offer a support package that starts with staff building trust with families and quickly moves onto the teams helping each family on a wide range of issues.

“I’m proud to have watched the income generated in both areas rise steadily and was delighted when we hit the £500,000 mark earlier this year. We’ve been working towards reaching the £1million target since. Now, we’ll build on this as we look forward to extending the programme to other parts of Renfrewshire.”

Many families aren’t aware they’re entitled to benefits like Child Tax Credits, Working Tax Credits, or support like Healthy Start Vouchers to pay for milk and Warm Home Discount to help with energy bills. Some also have difficulties filling in forms, or keeping their details up to date to make sure they get the right amount.

The core teams have also helped families in the two areas manage debt of £80,000.

Karen Ewing Families First Ferguslie’s Advice Worker, said: “Seeing the positive impact that generating unclaimed income and grants can have on families, when also combined with debt support, is very rewarding. Delivering advice within the community as part of the Families First team means we can build strong, positive relationships with the families we support.

“It is not only about money management, but also about looking at the range of issues that can impact on family life. As a team we make sure that families don’t just receive immediate financial advice, but a whole menu of support to meet their needs.”

As well as income and debt support, the teams – that are based in Glencoats Primary School and Woodlands Primary School – work with families on areas like parenting advice, with a focus on building positive relationships and promoting positive behaviour.

They also offer support on mental health, housing and eviction, addiction issues, domestic abuse, breakfast clubs and extra wraparound care, health and well being, and access to free meals and activities during school holidays.