Renfrewshire Council

Families First £3m

Families First puts £3m into residents' pockets

Renfrewshire Council's pioneering Families First early-years programme has now put more than £3m into the pockets of some of the area's hardest-pressed families.

The Families First initiative aims to give young children the best start in life by offering support to parents in five Renfrewshire locations.

It pulls together a number of services under one banner - such as debt and budgeting advice, help accessing services and funding, and help with practical parenting skills.

Having started in Ferguslie and Linwood in 2013, the programme was this year extended to Foxbar, Gallowhill and Johnstone thanks to funding from the council's Tackling Poverty programme.

Each of the five core teams includes an income advisor, whose job is to advise families how to claim any benefits they may be entitled to, and on the best ways to manage their debts.

And latest figures show that has now generated more than £3m of income for residents across the five areas - while helping them pay off around £350,000 of debt.

As Families First Johnstone co-ordinator Kelly McGarvey explained: "You read so many negative stories about people falsely claiming benefits  - actually lots of benefits are going unclaimed and families  need that money to meet the growing cost of family life.

"When our staff are out meeting families they are encouraged to do a financial health check and make sure they are getting everything they are entitled to."

In total, more than 850 people have passed through the doors of the five teams since the programme started - with many self-referred or referred from schools, nurseries and other services.

Councillor Jacqueline Henry, convener of Renfrewshire Council's education and children policy board, marked the milestone by popping in to see some of the service users and staff of Families First Johnstone at St Anthony's Primary.

She said: "I am thrilled that Families First has now managed to put £3m back into the pockets of some of the Renfrewshire residents who need it most.

"I would like to thank all the staff who have contributed to this fantastic milestone and really enjoyed meeting some of the parents who have benefitted from the scheme.

"The programme is all about giving families a better chance in life by equipping them to deal with financial issues and offering practical help with everyday things.

"A recent impact evaluation report on the programme concluded it is having a significant impact on children and their families across Renfrewshire.

"Putting the work of Families First next to our ground-breaking Tackling Poverty Programme, Renfrewshire Council is now seen as leading the way within Scotland on our work to help lower-income families."