ABOUT PARENT CLUB
Parent Club exists to improve outcomes for families in disadvantaged areas. Like children’s centres, we aim to break cycles of deprivation, close gaps in educational achievement and enhance child development. But whilst outcomes for children are the ultimate goal, our starting point is the experience of parents. Our mission, to improve the confidence, connectedness and emotional well-being of vulnerable parents, led us to develop the model for Kitchen Club. Since 2014 we have delivered more than 250 sessions, working with over 300 families to make communities healthier and happier places for developing children.
WHAT IS KITCHEN CLUB?
Kitchen Clubs, where parents with pre-school children meet to prepare and share healthy, easy to cook food, are designed to improve mental wellbeing through supporting parents to make new connections, learn new skills and make a positive contribution. Improved skills in healthy eating and parenting are also key outcomes.
We prioritise reaching those who could benefit the most, including those sometimes described as ‘hard to reach’. Using a relational approach, Kitchen Clubs are created with parents rather than being simply provided as a service. Providing an accessible opportunity for informal learning, Kitchen Clubs are an easy way for parents to explore parenting and nutrition within an inclusive environment where healthy eating and creative play happen as a matter of course.
WHY ARE KITCHEN CLUBS NEEDED?
Children growing up in disadvantaged areas are less likely to do well at school and more likely to have problems later in life. They face multiple risk factors outside the home, including high crime and low peer group attainment, but there are also significant risk and protective factors associated with the family environment and quality of parenting, especially in the early years.
Good nutrition and consistent, responsive parenting are key to healthy physical and psychological development. But in order to care effectively for their children, parents must have the skills, resources and resilience to meet the challenge.
Being connected to support, information and advice can make a big difference. Many socially isolated families, however, struggle with the everyday norms of community life and lack trust in the services available to support them, which are often seen as judgemental, elitist and unresponsive. And parenting support often fails because it ignores the wellbeing of parents themselves. Risk factors like weak attachment and inadequate parental supervision can be addressed successfully through evidence-based programmes, but those who really need such programmes are often the least likely to engage. Attrition rates for some parenting courses can be as high as 60%.
Kitchen Clubs reach parents who do not access more formal settings, providing a bridge to information and support and building confidence to engage with services and professional advice in the future.
The benefits of getting it right in the early years spread throughout society, as do the costs of getting it wrong. That’s why it makes sense to build more easily accessible support for parents into the social life of neighbourhoods, so that help is available before problems arise.