Home-Start is all about working with families but do we need to work smarter to meet the needs of all kinds of family?  Alan Webb, Chair of Home-Start Glasgow North, explains the new connections this Home-Start is making to help them get it right for every child in any family.

I've been connected with Home-Start Glasgow North (HSGN) for just over two years. From very early on it was clear that we were not connecting with all the families who wanted our style of support. That is no surprise. Against a backdrop of reducing public sector financing for organisations who work with families, it can be difficult for small organisations like ours to reach everyone. Funding for development work is hard to get but families are changing so creativity is required.

At HSGN we started by challenging how we present ourselves. We are now including more men and providing a more diverse representation of volunteers in our materials. We are also working on connecting with more groups and organisations. For example, those working with care experienced people, with families created through adoption and parents who identify as LGBT+. Now when we talk family we are using a new informal mantra - for us family now means 'however created, and whatever their make-up today'.

Connecting with parents who identify as LGBT+ and their families is an increasing focus for us. This is important because research by the Equality Network indicates there can be additional pressures facing these parents. These include a higher prevalence of mental health problems, specific sexual and reproductive health needs, and a higher rate of smoking, alcohol and substance abuse. Some, including those who have children, still report a fear of living openly as LGBT. In 2016 another report showed evidence of LGBT people being rejected by their families, specifically due to their sexuality. It is not surprising then that one third of respondents in the Equality Network study reported feeling isolated and over 40% of those who identify as LGBT have moved or considered moving away from their 'home' area.

There are organisations who can offer advice and support, such as Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (FFLAG), New Family Social and Parents Enquiry Scotland who support LGBT+ parents. Even so, there are many parents who don't want to attend groups or make connections with organisations based on their gender, their sexual orientation, their race, their own early experiences or their family circumstances. They just want to be parents, not 'gay parents'.

HSGN is on a journey of improvement. We are connecting with LGBT Youth to achieve an LGBT Charter Award, we will use a portion of recently awarded grants for working with young mums to raise awareness through partnerships, we will attend Pride Glasgow to raise the profile of our work and promote all families through more diverse online content. We are also partnering with Adoption UK who recently provided advanced training on attachment, nurture and relationships. Their particular work on adoption, whilst not exclusive to LGBT+ parents, will allow us to consider these important experiences in our work.

There is much to do if we are to address big social issues affecting families and I believe that means Home-Start taking a responsibility to ensure we are not only talking internally about being inclusive, but that anyone looking in on us can say and feel the same. This will include us speaking up when it's right. Whether on local or national issues, finding our voice can really make a difference for all families.

Alan is a dad, husband and Chair of Home-Start Glasgow North. He left a 16-year career when his children arrived in 2017. He's now an advisor on workplace learning, family-friendly working lives & leadership. Alan speaks on adoption and has an interest in tackling inequalities, digital inclusion and improving care experience.