Investment theme: Growing social networks, Improving health and well-being
How the Women’s Fund for Scotland has helped Gate 55 so far.
Gate 55 run groups for young mums and their children in Sighthill, a disadvantaged area of Edinburgh. In October 2011 the Women’s Fund for Scotland gave them a grant of £4,200 to cover their activity and childcare costs for a year. The group of 7-10 mums meets weekly for 2 hours at a community centre. A free crèche is provided (its capacity determines the group size as babies up to a year require a staff ratio of one staff to two babies), mums get a healthy lunch and a programme of activities based on their ideas. These include topics such as cookery, exercise, children’s health, relationships, housing issues and help with getting into college courses or returning to employment. Staff also help mums individually with a wide range of problems and can arrange appointments with other agencies, many in the same building. The groups also build friendships between mums and strengthen other family relationships by organising a Christmas dinner and summer outings for family and partners of group members.
Progress made by Gate 55
Demand for the help offered by the group has increased so much that Gate 55 now run two groups weekly and has a waiting list of 6 young mums or mums to be. Some mums take part in the groups for a short time and then move on to college courses or into employment or build up friendship networks and have less need of the group. Other mums are more isolated or face more complex difficulties and need to stay in the groups longer. Staff have the difficult task of balancing between the needs of existing group members and of those on the waiting list. Gate 55 now have sponsorship from Scotmid, who provide free refreshments for the group. They also have a three year grant from the Robertson Trust and are now in the final year of this funding. Mums are pulling together a cookery book of their cheap and healthy recipes which they will sell to raise funds for the group. Group members have also had alternative therapies from students at the local College.
A local school has a unit for school age mums, allowing them to continue their education. They could also benefit from some of the activities run by Gate 55 and staff tried this out successfully, but don’t have funds to carry on the work. The group would also like to offer certified courses in subjects such as child first aid and food handling and preparation. These would be practically useful for young mums and would also help them to build their CVs. However, they don’t currently have the funds to do this.
How Gate 55 has helped young mums
Bringing up a baby on your own with very little money is hard and often lonely work and even harder if you have no family members close by. Mums at the group said they loved getting out of the house and having some time away from their children. Some had tried other local groups but felt very out of place among older and better off mums. Many had made new friends through the groups. “I would come here every day if I could. It’s great meeting other mums in the same situation”
Many mums are worried about someone else looking after their child. Because the crèche is in the same building it’s a great opportunity for mums and their children to get used to being apart for short periods and means mums are then much more willing to consider using formal childcare if they go to college or into jobs. The group helps mums with bringing up their children in many ways, including talking about worries, sharing ideas on how to tackle problems, informing them about ways of stimulating their babies through play, books and music and linking mums to relevant local services for themselves and their children. “I was exhausted because I was up all night with my baby- it’s great to have somewhere to come and get a break”
Some of the young mums live at home with their families. While this arrangement can offer support and help, it can also be a source of tensions and arguments. Mums may also have issues with the fathers of their babies. The group offers specialist help with such relationship issues and with sexual health, equipping mums to improve their relationships. Young mums often have quite complicated issues to deal with- hard if you have no family and very limited money. “I was really stressed out because I had so many things to deal with- it was great getting help from Claire” (worker).
Some of the young mums have had jobs before they had their children and others had not. Most need some help with moving on with their lives. West Edinburgh Action in the same building offer sessions on CVs, interview skills, making college applications, training available and volunteering opportunities. Mums have also been linked with the Big Lottery funded project, Making it Work, helping lone parents back into employment. With the referendum approaching this year the group has discussed the issue involved and has helped mums to register to vote.
With your support this is exactly the sort of women’s group that the Women’s Fund for Scotland would like to go on funding. Not just in Edinburgh but anywhere in Scotland. Gate 55 has developed the expertise, connections and programme that help the young mums in its groups to meet several of our investment themes; building skills and confidence, improving health and well-being and building social networks. We know that for every £1 invested in women’s service between £5 and £11 worth of social value is generated for women, their families and the state, meaning that supporting services and projects like Gate 55 have a real impact on the women in it, their families and their communities.
If you’ve been moved by this story please do just one thing – get in touch with Shona to learn more about investing in the Women’s Fund for Scotland.