Scotland's largest voluntary social care organisation has welcomed a new multi-million-pound Scottish Government fund to help improve the lives of the nation's most vulnerable children.
Reverend Syd Graham, convener of the Church of Scotland's social care arm CrossReach, hailed the news at a time when many local authorities are making cutbacks to vital services.
Children's Minister Adam Ingram said the £6.8 million Early Years and Early Action Fund will open for bids in May, and will be administered by Inspiring Scotland.
Applications from voluntary organisations will have to demonstrate how they can creatively resource improve early years support to help parents and communities build better lives for themselves and their children. It is hoped services covering parenting, play, childcare and maternal health and family support could be improved.
Mr Graham said: “This fund is to be welcomed with many councils cutting back in the present financial climate.
“The money could help provide a network of support, paid staff and volunteers, to families in their homes and communities.
“It could help parents with parenting skills while their children attend play schools and nurseries, or help parents with drug and alcohol or mental health issues manage their known difficulties better and therefore become better parents, or even help children of such parents cope with these difficulties.
“By providing earlier support for families in need, this will prevent problems escalating into difficult and often costly crisis situations.
“We strongly believe in early intervention and hope that local authorities will invest in preventative services now, rather than blanket cutting back.
“This will not only save money in the longer term but also positively develop families and communities.”
And the convener felt CrossReach was ideally placed to help: “Given our diverse range of services as Scotland’s largest voluntary social care provider we are in a good position to address the agenda.
“Early intervention has been part of our strategy for many years along with our focus of prevention through intervention.
“At the heart of our work is supporting families and we are passionate about this. We believe parenting is one of the most difficult and treasured tasks and through this work great benefits will be reaped for all for the future.
“Already, through the Church of Scotland’s network of parishes, we have access to a vast social capital of untapped resources currently supporting families in all aspects of their life.”