Support group helps families to thrive in Leeds

A finger puppet is crafted at one of Flourishing Families Leeds' art groups.
A finger puppet is crafted at one of Flourishing Families Leeds' art groups.

A Leeds support group which helps families in deprived areas succeed has experienced significant growth this year.

Flourishing Families Leeds, which works “in areas of the city ranked amongst the most deprived one to ten per cent nationally”, has helped more people and seen its activities expand this year.

A young girl cooks up a treat with Flourishing Families Leeds.

A young girl cooks up a treat with Flourishing Families Leeds.

The charity, which is spearheaded by husband and wife team Richard and Kate Colbrook, tries to break down barriers to achievement by running a series of mentoring based activities.

These include cookery clubs, arts and crafts, language and reading classes, plus money skills.

Mr and Mrs Colbrook have a long track record of youth work after running a scheme in a deprived area of Oxfordshire for 17 years.

It started as a football club but soon grew into a youth programme with an emphasis on mentoring.

A little boy 'goes fishing' at one of Flourishing Families Leeds craft groups.

A little boy 'goes fishing' at one of Flourishing Families Leeds craft groups.

That experience has been brought to bear on Flourishing Families Leeds, which was founded as a charity two-years-ago.

Mr Colbrook, chair of trustees at Flourishing Families Leeds, said: “We began to work on mentoring, which was all about painting a bigger horizon for young people, helping them to aspire and to overcome hidden barriers.”

Mr Colbrook said visible barriers included literacy and numeracy, but he added: “Your invisible barriers are things like confidence and self-esteem, which in some ways can be even more powerful as a negative influence because they are hidden and don’t necessarily get tackled.”

The charity aims to help mentor the whole family. Mrs Colbrook, the director of the charity, said: “Schools obviously do a great job, but in terms of drawing families in and providing those extra activities that will do the mentoring, schools don’t do that. There is a gap there that someone like Flourishing Families can fill.”

A little girl shows off one of her creations.

A little girl shows off one of her creations.

The charity works primarily in the Bramley, Stanningley and Armley areas. It also has close ties with primary schools, running literacy programmes like Story Tellers.

They now have a queue of schools who want to work with them. Mr Colbrook added: “I think we are growing significantly. In the school year, running up to August 2018, we had 12 projects. By the time we hit August this year we will have 34 projects.”

He said the number of direct beneficiaries, the number of people they work with face to face, would reach 520 this year. Previously the number stood at more than 350.

Mr Colbrook said: “All the time we are trying to work together. We are not doing the activities for people, we are doing things with people. That’s a really strong part of our ethos.”

The charity has benefitted from help from Leeds Community Foundation. An initial grant helped it develop a pilot cookery club scheme into a full project. And money from the Fairhurst Fund enabled it to develop a financial literacy programme, where children are taught about the importance of budgeting, and to run mentoring projects like the Creators Club.

Mrs Colbrook said: “We are in a real period of growth at the moment. We have got a lot of development that we want to do in the coming year.”

There are plans to develop the cookery clubs and Art and Soul programme further. Mr Colbrook believes the Flourishing Families model could be reproduced elsewhere, and it has had enquiries from other groups. He said: “This can start to spread beyond Leeds.”

FACT FILE

Flourishing Families Leeds works to support children, parents, carers and whole families.

The anti-deprivation charity, which was established in 2017, aims to overcome the barriers which prevent people from flourishing and to bring about lasting positive change.

Activities include family cookery clubs, free English conversation classes, family craft clubs, support of parents and carers and activity-based mentoring for children.

It works closely with primary schools in the Bramley, Stanningley and Armley areas.

Ruth Esplin, head teacher at Bramley St Peter’s, has praised its work.

She said: “Flourishing Families have a rare ability of being able to both work professionally and engage challenging to reach families, who we see transformed.

“These families do not regard Kate (Colbrook) and her team as another organisation who are working with them, but as friends who are committed to walking with them through the ups and downs of life.

“Some parents have changed so much that they are now volunteering for the charity and speak of this as the highlight of their week.”
If you would like to volunteer please ring Kate on 07554003101 or email katec@flourishingfamiliesleeds.org.uk.

See www.flourishingfamiliesleeds.com for more.