Family Lives & Gloucestershire Counselling Service Working Looking To Recruit Volunteers to Support Separated and Separating Families

Family Lives and Gloucestershire Counselling Service are working together to engage with separated parents to deliver emotional and practical support regarding joint parenting plans and child maintenance agreements. 

To reach as many families as possible Family Lives is looking to recruit a team of family worker volunteers to support separated and separating families throughout Gloucestershire. 

Family Lives’ free 24/7 Helpline found that between April 2012 –March 2014, of the 1,026 calls answered from Gloucestershire parents and carers ,13% cited their primary issue was divorce and separation.  A further 4.5% were about family law.  Within the category of divorce and separation 6% of parents talked to Family Lives specifically about child access and 9% rang us to get help and advice specifically around being unable to reach an agreement with their ex-partner around issues such as maintenance and access.  Overall, 54% of the helpline calls were from single parents or step family parents during this period. 

Where divorce and separation was the primary reason for calling Family Lives helpline, parents talked particularly about lack of contact, unreliable and unwilling contact, the impact of divorce on the behaviour of their child, conflict and living arrangements. 

Sue Cook has recently trained as a Family Lives volunteer and is keen to support other parents to find their way through the challenges separation brings. She has experienced herself the difficulties that separation can bring. She said: 

“When my partner and I separated it was not amicable.  We had three young children aged three, five and seven and we found it impossible to discuss the future without it the discussion breaking down and turning into an argument.  We couldn't agree on access or maintenance and things went from bad to worse.  I wish there had been a service like this when I needed it.  I'm sure that the impact on my children would have been more positive if we had received help from a mediation service.”

Jane Windle-Hartshorn of Family Lives said: 

“Many people find it difficult to admit to relationship support needs; this can be further magnified by the fact that divorce and separation is a particularly stressful experience, with conflicts and tensions often continuing post separation, causing separated parents to feel vulnerable. We’d love to recruit more men to help us support separating families. There is a particular issue with fathers being reluctant to seek support after a separation. Through our partnership with paternal support organisations and outreach work, Family Lives has developed an expertise in working with fathers and overcoming any reluctance to seek support.” 

Chris Westbrook from GCS said: 

“Whether they demonstrably show it or not, young people are affected by their parents’ separation and can benefit from talking about what upsets them or what makes them angry or confused. Short-term focused support from organisations such as Family Lives and GCS can help them to understand what is happening and make plans for the future.  One to one counselling can really help young people who are struggling with conflicting emotions and loyalties related to parental separation. Our partnership with Family Lives is designed to ensure all basis are covered and that parents, children and the wider family are equipped to find their own ways through the challenges of separation.” 

Parent support volunteers will be given on-going training  to enable them to  support families through the  challenges they face due to separation. Key to the training will be the Family Lives positive communication tools which will aid parents to look at drawing up a parenting plan and maintenance agreement. 

For volunteer enquiries please contact Family Lives’ Gloucestershire Office, Palace Chambers, 41 London Road, Stroud, Gloucestershire, GL5 1AJ, or call 01453 768 160 or email


Notes to Editors

The Department of Work and Pensions has commissioned Family Lives and Gloucestershire Counselling Services (GCS).  GCS offer counselling services to children and young people aged 8 to 18yrs who are experiencing difficulty and concerns as a result of their parents’ separation.  These difficulties might stem from changes in family life such as separation, divorce/remarriage, developments within step families, illness, loss or bereavement.  

Family Lives has been in existence for over 30 years and has a successful intervention model, which received The Queens Diamond Jubilee Volunteering Award in 2013, that utilises a volunteer led befriending programme currently delivered in two contexts:


• Family Lives & GCS will support 50 families in Gloucestershire from April 14 – March 15.

• Family Lives & GCS will recruit, train and manage 20 volunteers who will support an average of 3 families from April 14 – March 15.

• Family Lives Volunteers and Family Support Staff will work with families to ensure that a collaborative relationship between parents is reached

• Family Lives & GCS will work with families to establish and agree Joint Parenting Plans

• Family Lives & GCS work with families to ensure that private child maintenance arrangements are reached