• How are you helping to tackle child poverty in London?

Westminster Befriend a Family (WBAF) enables people to break out of cycles of poverty, and mitigate its impact with the support and accompaniment of trained and supervised volunteers. We runs mentoring programmes for parents and young people in Westminster and the surrounding boroughs.  ‘Mentoring for Mums’ is a programme we’ve just launched, that supports mums of children aged five who are facing challenges and who want to make positive changes in their lives with the support of a volunteer mentor.  With support to build confidence, identify and achieve goals, find the specialist support needed and get unstuck, our programme helps mums into employment and education, as well as providing practical, emotional and social support. Similarly, ‘Broadening Horizons’ our mentoring programme for young people aged 10 – 24 offers regularly one-to-one support on a weekly basis from trained volunteers, with a goal-focused approach to setting aspirations, building connections and reducing loneliness.

  • Share with our members something positive about your organisation’s achievement or service.

With the onset of the Coronavirus pandemic, since the first lockdown in March 2020, we managed to not only continue our services, but to massively increase our provision, tripling the number of people we supported in the last year as we expanded and introduced new programmes.   We took everything online and after a few lumps and bumps, we’d got into the swing of things by April.  Our brilliant volunteers were the linchpins in our success: they’ve helped us with volunteer recruitment drives, adapting to online working and their commitment to supporting families experiencing challenges has been unstinting, despite difficulties with communication and a hugely unpredictable environment. Because of the trusting relationships they built up, they were able to identify when families needed additional support with food, financial advice or IT equipment, and we were able to rapidly connect them to the right organisations so that their needs were met within days.

  • What can other network members learn from you or find out more about through you?

Our volunteers have their fingers on the pulse of the community – because of the relationships they build up, they often get to hear about problems people might be experiencing before others are aware of them, which means we can respond quickly to individual or collective issues.  With our signposting and referral system, we can make sure people are connected to the right services.  We’re always keen to hear from organisations who support families and young people, so that we can connect them to the support they need, as well as taking referrals from them too.

  • What would most help you achieve your goals?

We’re growing, and we’re always looking for more mentors – compassionate people with time to give, as well as an understanding of the challenges that some disadvantaged parents and young people are managing: Volunteers can apply here! We offer full training and ongoing support and supervision, as well as Tempo Timecredits so you and your mentee can grab a coffee together when you’re able to meet!

  • Why did you join 4in10? What do you enjoy about being part of the 4in10 network?

As a small organisation, we don’t have much capacity to independently engage in policy and advocacy work, but we know that our experiences and the voices we can channel need to be heard.  Being part of the 4in10 network enables us to contribute to the systemic change that tackles the root causes of the challenges that our families and young people face.  The information I get from 4in10 is really relevant for me and helps me stay abreast of a vast and rapidly changing field of research and advocacy so that our programmes and funding applications are well-informed – thank you!