Being here for families

5min read

Like so many people, I have been deeply saddened by the horrific death of Arthur Labinjo-HughesMy heart goes out to the grandparents and wider family members who voiced concerns, reached out for support, and failed to receive it.  

Anyone who knows Family Lives, the charity I’m proud to be Chief Executive of, will understand just how deeply Arthur’s case resonates with our organisation. 

Family Lives was established in response to the death of 7-year-old Maria Colwell, almost 50 years ago. Maria’s tragic death was a watershed moment in child welfare and led to UK-wide changes in child protection.  

An inquiry into the case included testimony from 70 witnesses, 13 written submissions and around 99 documents only to conclude that the ‘system’ failed because of lack of communication and coordination, inadequate training, and changes to the make-up of society. 

We don’t need to learn the lessons again. Now is the time to recognise a seismic need for better support within society. 

The ‘family’ is widely regarded as a place where a child’s physical, developmental and emotional needs are met. Somewhere where children can safely grow and thrive. Sadly, for some, the reality is hugely different and, sometimes, the family is the least safe place for children. 

Today’s families are increasingly diverse and face multiple complex challenges to their stability and resilience. But the truth is that no matter who you are or where you’re from, family life can sometimes by messy, chaotic, and dysfunctional. At some point, every family, no matter how stable, will benefit from a little extra help and for some that need may be much more acute. 

In moments of crisis, hardship or struggle we believe that everyone should have someone to turn to for help. Unfortunately, not every family does and we’re here to fill that gap. 

We believe that when you support the adult, you support the child. If we are ever going to break the cycle of hardship and disadvantage that repeats itself over different generations, then adults, parents, carers, guardians as well as children must be at the heart of any intervention. 

So, at a time when local authorities and support agencies are underfunded and over stretched, we partner with them to provide intensive, practical, and emotional support for families most in need. Families affected by poverty, divorce, bereavement, and mental health problems. Single parent families, families with toddlers, teens, and young adults.  

Through our passionate, committed and highly skilled volunteer workforce, we support families across the UK. Wherever they are, whatever they’re facing, our incredible volunteers face it with them. Giving their time, lending an ear, sharing life skills and experience, showing they care without judgement or pressure. Doing all they can to make a difference, to change an outcome, a direction, a life. 

Over the past two years we have seen an increase in demand for support through our helpline, website, and longer-term one-to-one services, together with a 54% increase in safeguarding concerns. Last year alone we answered over 44,000 calls, chats and emails providing advice and 
support on parenting and family issues; over 2.4 million people used our website; and over 7,600 adults and young people were supported through community services. But there are many more who need our services. 

The pandemic plunged families into unchartered territory and a highly pressured environment. As the complexity of issues they face continues to increase and more families are pushed closer to breaking point the need for early, responsive help and support has never been more acute. And Family Lives is here to provide it, wherever, whenever and whatever is needed. 

Jeremy Todd

Chief Executive - Family Lives