Kids Matter’s Annual Gathering brings together all those involved in or supporting our programme; to encourage and equip them in their ministry, and to inspire one other with amazing stories of transformation in local communities. This year’s theme was Dare to Dream. With input from some excellent guest speakers, we spent a day on Zoom considering a landscape that offers us radically different opportunities and how this might impact the way the local church works in partnership to support communities.
The impact of the pandemic means the strategies/plans we had before the last couple of years will not be relevant as we go forward. Child suffering is increasing at an alarming rate. Rising poverty across the UK, with now one in three children in poverty, is rendering families in already disadvantaged communities unable to cope and it is the children who suffer the most with a range of emotional, psychological and social problems. In spite of research showing that early intervention is the most effective way to prevent long-term issues in children, the shocking reality is that there are now one in six children referred for a mental health issue compared to one in nine, two years ago. We also know that the link between mental health and poverty is very complex and one definitely impacts the other.
What can be done and what does this have to do with partnerships?
Well, the local church is in a unique position to be able to reach the most vulnerable children in society and support them so that they do not continue on a negative trajectory set for them by the circumstances they were raised in. A lot of churches have operated on their own, deploying volunteers to do all kinds of amazing work but, as needs have grown and certainly since the pandemic, what is clear is that that old way of doing things is not fit for purpose going forwards. We must all work together (churches, charities, the statutory sector) to wrap around families in poverty; to equip them with what they need for their children to thrive. Another key change we must make is that we need to involve the beneficiaries themselves as part of that partnership, and involve them in all that we are doing.
At Kids Matter, we are under no illusion that building partnerships is easy but we do know that the impact of working together is huge. Russell Rook, founding partner of the Good Faith Partnership (previously serving The Salvation Army, Labour Party and numerous social enterprises and charities) shared his top tips for building good partnerships:
- Make partnership a must, not a maybe.
- Building relationships that are the foundation of partnerships takes longer but is worth it.
- The work to build relationships never goes to waste.
We also heard from church leaders Darren and Lynette Woodward, who have served their community in one of the most deprived areas in and around Norwich for over 30 years, and joined us to talk about both the challenges and successes of working in partnership with their local school and other community organisations. Although building relationships of trust is a time and energy investment, Darren and Lynette have seen positive impact on children and families in their community. Headteacher Fiona Booth also shared about partnering with Kids Matter to engage school parents in our programme. She talked enthusiastically about the effect it’s had on her community, where:
- Parents are more engaged with school
- Children’s attendance has improved
- Medicated anxieties are no longer medicated
- Parents are applying for jobs
- There’s been a huge increase in chatter on the gate
- Improved sleep routines
- New life breathed into parent body.
Kids Matter is so integrated into school life and community that when Miss Booth asked about how Kids Matter has changed their lives, parents collectively said:
It saved my life; it saved my family.
We were also privileged to have Rt Revd Ric Thorpe, Bishop of Islington, inspire us with words of encouragement:
I love Kids Matter and all the ways they’re engaging with local churches to equip parents and carers facing disadvantages with a new confidence and a new competence, in community together with others, to enable their children to thrive.
As team members, we have certainly been dared to dream and are very much looking forward to hearing stories of transformation from our Facilitators and church partners as they apply learnings from our Annual Gathering 2022 in their partnership strategies.
If you missed the day and would like to hear any of the talks by our guest panel, you can find a recording on Vimeo. Do check it out!
Kids Matter is a programme that engages with families and young children before crisis point – it strengthens families by giving mums and dads the tools to be competent, confident parents or caregivers. To get involved, as a volunteer or by financially supporting our programme, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.