Sussex charity Family Support Work is hoping to build a strong family for every child in the county by developing its work with people who are going through challenging times.
Established by a group of churchwomen in Chichester in 1890, the charity helps children and families on the margins of society, those least able to support themselves. It supports families struggling with issues such as poverty, ill health, learning difficulties, bereavement, family break-up and domestic abuse.
Martin Auton-Lloyd, chief executive, gave an insight into its work at a charity lunch held in the Arundel Restaurant at Northbrook MET in Worthing on Thursday.
He said: “The perception that Sussex is this great, wealthy county is misleading. There are pockets of deprivation. There are lovely leafy villages but there is always somebody who needs an organisation like us.
“We are quite a well-kept secret but we do need more and more support. The call for our work is tremendous and we need to be able to do more.”
The lunch was supported by four of the charity’s deaneries, Storrington, Arundel & Bognor, Worthing and Hove, and guests included Worthing mayor Hazel Thorpe and her consort Robin Rogers.
Martin said: “It is absolutely fantastic, the support we get from people who know us.”
The charity helped 500 children in December and received donations of toys and books worth more than £25,000.
Martin said: “Every child will receive a book for World Book Day. You go into some of the homes of the children we work with and there isn’t a book.”
New support workers are being introduced into Petworth and Midhurst this year and the Storrington deanery, which already covers Rustington, is looking to expand into Littlehampton.
Becca Carter, family support practitioner, runs a monthly after-school club in Rustington and has over the past year or so developed a coffee and chat support group for parents of children with special needs, meeting at Establo Lounge in Rustington on alternate Fridays.
She said: “It is interesting work. I am sure you are aware, mental health need in children are rising.
“I have been in Pulborough and Storrington for two years and the needs there are vast. It is a rural area and it has been a shock to me how little the resources are, though the needs are very big.”
Every practitioner gets to know their area and while Becca tends to work with groups, Lydie Badcock, family support practitioner for Worthing, more often works with individuals.
Lydie said: “We have a wide way to work. We look at the area and we work with the communities that we are in. It is lovely to be given that freedom.”
She said drop-ins are a way to bring families together and as many of the people she works with are not English, she runs a monthly meet-up for those parents.
Lydie explained: “I found these families are usually quite isolated. We are just going to so how it is going to expand.”
She works with families from the Philippines, China, Spain and India and also works alongside Worthing 4 Refugees with Syrian families living in Lancing, Sompting and Steyning.
Deputy Lieutenant Caroline Nicholls, who lives in Worthing, has been appointed as one of the charity’s new bishop’s champions, helping to raise the profile of its work throughout Sussex.
She said she first found out about the charity when she was High Sheriff of West Sussex, in 2018-19.
She was invited to join a group on the beach and took along a kite for the children to play with. Caroline said seeing one of the boys running freely with the kite ‘made her year’, knowing what he had been through as a refugee of the Syrian Civil War.
The Rt Rev Dr Martin Warner, Bishop of Chichester and president of Family Support Work, said: “Each of these new champions already has a distinguished track record of public service and we are hugely fortunate that they will be supporting FSW.
“Their willingness to serve in this capacity is an indication of the serious plight that many families are in, and the important work that FSW is doing, at the local level, to improve the quality of life for children and their parents who are in most need.”