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Many lone parents faced not only the usual worries and challenges of pregnancy and parenthood, but also additional ones such as isolation and stigmatization. It is known that peer support groups and early assistance for families can have a significant positive impact, and commendable work has already been done in this field.

Small Talk, which is part of the Foundation's Covid Response Programme, is a collection of projects that provide support to those who were most adversely affected by the pandemic, including lone parents.

The Small Talk initiative originated in Scotland, where small-scale research was conducted among young single mothers under the age of 25 who had given birth during the pandemic. This research, carried out between February and April 2022 in collaboration with three partner organisations, clearly identified the need for support during the perinatal period (from birth to 12 months) and early mental health and well-being assistance for lone parents, including during pregnancy. It also highlighted the benefits of peer support networks for the emotional well-being of young mothers and their desire for more of such support.

Following the research, the Small Talk project was launched in June 2022, in partnership with ourselves at Mind Mosaic Child and Family Therapy and other seven organisations, with the goal of improving the mental health and emotional well-being of vulnerable lone parents through the delivery of peer support groups. The following partner organisations are involved in this effort:

  1. Amma Birth Companions

  2. Dads Rock

  3. Mind Mosaic

  4. One Parent Family Scotland

  5. Govan HELP

  6. Together for Childhood

  7. Young Parents Support Base at Smithycroft Secondary

The project is funded until March 2024, and the goal is to provide support and training to staff, as well as collaborate in developing a framework for the delivery of peer support. The project consists of two key phases.

During phase one, there will be training and development to meet the needs of staff and volunteers at each partner organisation. The aim is to determine what these organisations and their teams require to feel confident in delivering peer support groups that promote the mental health of lone parents. Based on this information, there will be organised training events, support for staff and volunteer development and reflection, and facilitate knowledge sharing among the partner organisations. Through this network, partners will mentor one another by sharing their knowledge, skills, and experiences.

In phase two, our partners will utilise the training they have received to conduct peer support groups for lone parents across Scotland. This will be monitored and evaluated to gauge the impact of this enhanced support on the emotional well-being of parents and also explore other ways in which families benefit from participating in these peer support groups.

Small Talk will be used to advocate for the availability of effective peer support groups for all lone parents. Additionally, the delivery model will be shared with other organisations and services, enabling them to incorporate it into their work with parents.

The project is overseen and supported by a steering group, whose members convene quarterly. The group consists of the following members:

  1. Anne Burns - Family Nurse Practitioner Lead

  2. Cathy Sexton - Fathers Network Scotland

  3. Emma Cashmore-Gordon - Aberlour

  4. Jane Turner - Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist, Lead for Infant Mental Health

  5. Michelle Guthrie - Health Improvement Senior

  6. Stephanie Mair - Perinatal Mental Health Specialist Midwife

  7. Grace Niven and Karen Ross - Health Visitor Team Leads

  8. Imogen Brown and Amy Bryson - Home Start Glasgow South

For further information about Small Talk, please contact Gill Meens, the Project Manager, via email.

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