Basildon charity is a lifeline for families

22nd May 2024

Families in the Basildon area who face some of the most difficult challenges that modern life can bring, are being given a lifeline by people who understand just what they are going through.

Basildon Parents 4 Parents (BP4P) was set up seven years ago by a group of mums who had dealt with difficulties themselves and wanted to help others. Debbie Boukriss, BP4P Project Manager, had a vision of trained volunteers providing peer2peer support.

Now the organisation provides vital wide-ranging non-judgemental practical support to help local families who are often in crisis, struggling with such things as their own or their children’s well-being, school communications and cost of living challenges.

Support is also given to those who just need a listening ear to help cope with their everyday challenges.

Hundreds of parents have turned to BP4P, often when they have been unable to find help elsewhere.  A recent grant of £21,000 from the independent charitable trust, Essex Community Foundation (ECF), has provided much-needed funding so that the activities, guidance and support given by BP4P can continue over the next three years.

The funding came from the Four Acre Core Cost Fund which was set up with ECF in 2023 to provide multi-year funding to support the running costs of small charities and voluntary organisations working in Essex with an annual income of under £100,000.

Jackie Stein, project coordinator for BP4P said: “We call Essex Community Foundation our “Angels”, because of the grants they have given to help us keep going and to set up new projects.

“The biggest problems facing families today are the cost-of-living and access to services.  We are finding that the need is so great now and statutory services have become so overloaded that social services often refer people to us.

“We are at level one, on the front line, and what we are trying to do is provide early intervention to help people deal with some very complex challenges.

“We are constantly providing crisis support to our families with food hampers and vouchers to cover their basic needs, but this is just the tip of the iceberg.

“We have feedback from parents who say that our support has given them a lifeline. Only recently I had a call from our local school asking me to help in a situation where a family was being made homeless.

“We are lucky to have a core group of a dozen volunteers who are all from the local area and all support each other. Our management committee is also headed up by people from across the Basildon borough. We have a wealth of personal experience which means we are able to provide positive, empathetic peer support.

“I have personal experience myself, having a son who is on the autistic spectrum. He is now 18 and doing well, but when I was at crisis point, a decade ago, I asked myself, ‘why did I have an autistic son?’.  I came to realise that my experiences could be used in a positive way to help other parents.

“Thanks to our funding from ECF, some new projects have become a reality and we have been able to set up three youth groups for neurodivergent young people. The grants have helped us with hall hire costs and enabled us to have a paid coordinator for the projects.

“We saw a need for the youth groups through the experiences of a group of parents who were looking for something that wasn’t being provided anywhere else, as their children were growing up.  The children often have high anxiety levels which lead to social and behavioural difficulties. This has an impact on family relationships and dynamics, causing high stress to all involved and often social isolation.

“By having the youth groups, we can offer safe spaces and enjoyable activities for the children to interact with their peers. Their families have access to our volunteer teams who offer them peer support as well as referral to local services, and they are able to meet with other parents and carers who have the same challenges.”

Zoe Brampton, grants manager at ECF said : “BP4P is a great example of people seeing a need in the local community and getting together to do something about it.  They are a charity rooted deep within the local community in Basildon, supporting families who are struggling both financially and emotionally and they offer such a wide range of services, run by dedicated volunteers.

“Charities are under increasing pressure to pay their running costs as prices continue to rise.   We are pleased that the grants we have given through some of the funds we manage at ECF is enabling BP4P to continue supporting families in the Basildon area and is helping them run much-needed groups for neurodivergent young people.

For information about applying for an ECF grant, click here.