The Family & Parenting Institute recently opened the bidding for the third round of the Parenting Fund, its grant fund from the Department for Children, Schools and Families (once known as the DfES) of £16m over two years.
The institute, which supports families raising children, is hoping to get successful projects up and running by 1 April next year. It's a tight timescale, but the achievements of the fund to date suggest it is perfectly feasible.
The fund is open to English charities that are carrying out "parenting support work where parents, families and children face significant challenges".
Projects applying for funding must have the aim of strengthening existing parental couple relationships, strengthening relationships in families where parental behaviours compromise family wellbeing, promoting active and positive fatherhood or encouraging the take-up of existing services by disadvantaged or vulnerable communities.
The fund was set up in 2004 by the DfES to support projects run by voluntary and community groups in specified areas (18 localities in round one, 23 in round two). Both rounds have funded valuable work - for example, family allotment projects and a worker to support the parents of looked-after children - but ran for relatively short periods, which has posed problems for the funded groups. Accordingly, the DCSF has created a 'transition fund' to keep a number of the second round projects running until March 2009.
"In June, we gave the projects about a week to get their application forms in for the transition fund," says Honor Rhodes, director of the institute. "We assessed them incredibly quickly, although it helped that they could ask for money only to continue their existing work and get them into a position where they could be commissioned by a local authority."
In addition to project funding, all grant-holders have been awarded five days of consultancy on issues ranging from governance to IT. Organisations were required to request an additional 10 per cent in funding to cover additional help and free project staff to work with the consultants.
"There's nothing like having a consultant turn up when you don't have the time to work with them," Rhodes points out.
The institute will work with funded groups to prepare them for local authority commissioning. "These tiny local projects have tried out wonderful ideas, and some of them are having a huge impact," says Rhodes.
Bidding for the third round of the fund closes on 12 December and will cover the two financial years up to 2011.
CASE STUDY: IMPACT FAMILY SUPPORT
Impact Family Support & Child Contact Centres, based in Sunderland with venues in Durham and South Tyneside, is a family mediation service that works to reduce conflict between separated parents and to help them care for their children.
It has been able to extend its facilities and introduce new ones with the £115,133 it was given by the Parenting Fund to use between 2006 and 2009.
It has introduced an initiative to change the mentality of men who have committed domestic violence but have not been charged or convicted. It has also been able to fund a male worker for its advice centre, where parents meet their children and are given an opportunity to question support staff.
Hazel Brunton, chief executive of the centres, says: "The male worker is a father himself and can help men with parenting issues, particularly where relationships have broken down."
The charity is now also able to offer courses to fathers to improve their parenting skills and teach them how to recognise childhood illnesses.
It has also extended its mediator service, which helps separated parents communicate and care for their children.