Case Study

Hawick Congregational Community Church

Cattanach awarded Reaching Out, the community project of Hawick Congregational Community church £12,000 over two years, to develop their Toddler group.  

In 2013, the Big Lottery Children and Families Fund gave a grant to assist in moving from a volunteer led group to piloting the role of two sessional workers, to support and involve the parents but to provide stability and additional activities.

Subsequent funding from Cattanach has enabled us to continue this development, looking specifically at outcomes which have benefited the children and babies through play.  This project is really important for a town like ours, where it is too time consuming and expensive for parents to travel to Edinburgh or Glasgow.  It has given us the ability to provide regular fun through messy play and games with live music, rhyme, drama and art, which would otherwise not be available to our families.

What do we do?

Parents asked if they could have a programme of events, which included specific

activities to promote healthy eating, animal fun day with masks and activities, circus games music, and races.  We had key events ranging from a Christmas party, summer activities, summer garden picnic, Halloween party, art workshops and live puppet shows.

Messy play for all ages has been especially popular including finger painting, painting on large surface, chalks, playdough, glue, sand and water which is not something many parents are comfortable about doing at home, particularly if they have no prior play experience and limited space. Most of the creative play uses re-cycled materials so cost is not a concern. We were keen to involve the new and small babies, to benefit from activities based on feeling, touching, song and rhyme, promoting healthy cognitive and emotional development from birth. 

Mindful of the low economy in Hawick, a pre Christmas jumble sale provided a good selection of  toys, baby and children’s clothes at affordable prices.  

Being part of our wider project, Reaching Out, means families can also access our knitting group for hand knitted baby garments and cot blankets.  This year our knitting group taught a 16 year old Mum-to-be how to knit.  Toddlers can also participte other activities, for example our inter generational tea dance which was a huge success.

What has this achieved?

We have engaged with over 50 parents and carers and their children over two years.  

We wanted to increase social interaction, to improve children’s sense of security, the result of which would be a smoother transition for them into nursery/pre-school and school settings.  At the end of our first summer, this outcome was achieved with the children being more confident and able to integrate well into early school and nursery.

We also wanted to encourage more vulnerable families to have a raised awareness of play, to help promote their toddlers levels of friendship, physical skills and ability to learn. Those with little experience of play began to enjoy simple activities, singing and music with traditional singing rhymes, guitar and accordian.

Because our Workers offer dedicated attention to the children and their parents, without the need for a volunteer rota, the parents are free to engage in play with their children and bond with them.  Children have dedicated ‘playtime’ with their parents in a safe relaxed environment, with staff on hand to support.  Parents have reported greater interaction and an increased understanding of the significance of play, alongside a decrease in their own isolation and loneliness.  Friendships are growing all the time. 

Craigmillar Books for Babies

We are addressing a need to provide support to families with children who have delayed language or underdeveloped communication skills. Our support can benefit families experiencing challenging circumstances. These often include social isolation, poverty, experiences of trauma, language barriers, low confidence of parent/carer, poor family relationships or recent diagnosis of autism. Craigmillar Books for Babies has worked for many years with the community Speech and Language Therapy service. In recent years we have identified a need to work in a more joined up approach with Health Visitors, Speech and Language Therapists and Early Years Practitioners.

What we are being funded for

We have developed a programme in partnership with the community Speech and Language Therapy service called Talking Together.  We have been able to appoint a Speech and Language Therapist and a Speech and Language Therapy Assistant to support early communication and early language development. 

Talking Together is delivered in community settings which include Craigmillar Medical Centre, Greendykes Early Years Centre, Craigmillar Early Years Centre, Moffat Early Years Campus and Greengables Family Centre. 

Families can attend an Early Communication Support drop-in for support and advice on how best to support and develop their child’s communication. The drop in is facilitated by the Speech and Language Therapist with support from the Craigmillar Books for Babies Development Officer. Referrals can be made by Health Visitors, Early Years Practitioners or through our Family Support at Home programme. A referral can be prompted by a concern from a parent/carer or a professional working with the family.  

Families are offered a home visit to support them to carry out the activities recommended by the Speech and Language Therapist.  Home visits can take place weekly or monthly depending on what the family would like. 

Parent and Child Groups are small groups for families, facilitated by Speech and Language and Books for Babies. At the moment these groups take place in Craigmillar Medical Centre and take place in 3 week blocks. 

The Speech and Language Therapists also deliver training to Early Years Centres and nurseries.  Early Talking Time is aimed at 2-3 year olds, and is designed to target pre-verbal skills such as active listening, eye contact, attention, copying, turn taking and early sound awareness.  This also benefits the development of understanding and expression of language and social communication skills.  

What is happening differently because of the funding

Talking Together means that Speech and Language Therapy support for under 3s is now more visible and more accessible in the community. Health Visitors are referring families to Early Communication Support. Support and advice given at the drop-in is extended into the family home through our Family Support at Home programme. 

Working in a range of early years settings has extended the support from the medical centres out in to the community. Joint sessions with the family and with the Keyworker means that everyone is on the same page in terms of the best ways to support the child’s communication. 

Training for Early Years Practitioners has led to increased knowledge and awareness on typical language development, communication enrichment strategies and how to seek assistance. Early Years staff have been provided with written session plans to follow, along with materials to use.