At Kids Matter, our vision is to see every child in need raised in a strong family. We engage local churches to equip mums, dads and carers facing disadvantages with confidence, competence and community. Why community? Because we know that ‘community’ nurtures relationships and when people connect (and journey through life together), they are stronger and more resilient.
On the other hand, a decline in community manifests itself in experiences of loneliness, insecurity, and feeling ‘left behind’– as articulated in a new report by the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ). The report also states that social isolation is linked to poor mental and physical health, making it abundantly clear that for individuals, families and children to flourish in life, they need community. But what is community and how can we build it?
The CSJ’s Pillars of Community report is a response to a perceived disintegration of community in our country and an investigation of how to enable communities to thrive. After polling 5,000 individuals from diverse backgrounds, research shows that people look to their local communities for three things (so-called “pillars of community”), namely: a sense of security, human connection and a feeling of belonging. These needs operate in a hierarchical structure whereby security acts as a foundation upon which connection and belonging can be established. The report thus proposes a ‘pathway to participation’ for all sectors (from Government and non-profits to individuals and families) that aims to strengthen communities with the aim of improving quality of life:
- The pathway to security is stability. Stability comes from neighbourhood safety as well as social stability in households, including through stable housing tenure, employment, family relationships and social support structures which are grounded in local, caring, interpersonal relationships.
- The pathway to connection is facility. This means more than physical infrastructure; it means resources for people to meet one another locally in formal and informal settings such as parks, high streets, community hubs, clubs, pubs. It also means quality information about opportunities to meet and participate together.
- The pathway to belonging is agency. This enables communities to take control of their assets and identity so that it meets the needs and aspirations of those who live in them. Vital to this are diverse opportunities for engagement, giving everyone a voice, and enabling a sense of local “place” to flourish through participatory decision-making.
The Pillars of Community report validates our aim at Kids Matter to offer families community as a form of stability, where they can feel secure, connected and empowered. So many of our Kids Matter parents feel isolated and lonely in their parenting; frustrated by their circumstances – often times a result of generational or situational poverty. When you’re tired, hungry and cold, parenting challenges are exacerbated – chaotic even. In our groups, one of the most impactful realisations in the life of a parent or carer is that they are not alone: that parenting is tough for everyone. It’s a leveller.
Whilst Covid-19 aggravated pre-existing disadvantages in poorer communities, the CSJ’s report acknowledges that the onset of lockdown saw an outpouring of community spirit and localism which many see as an opportunity to rebuild our social fabric. Trusting relationships are vital for reducing poverty. This means organising support provision so that those who need help have someone they trust and can turn to on an ongoing basis, and who is equipped to understand a wide range of issues they may be facing simultaneously.
Our programme cannot fix poverty but it does make parenting manageable and aims to build a future where every child in need has the opportunity to thrive in life. It also builds community – encouraging friendship and meet-ups when the programme is finished. We aim to give parents a voice, to remind them that they matter and to share their journey with others, and participate in life together.
To read PILLARS OF COMMUNITY: Why communities matter and what matters to them, click the link.
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 email@example.com.