Families are looking forward to a brighter future, thanks to a groundbreaking project.
Such is the success of the Improving Futures Project, it’s had its funding extended to 2017.
To mark the success, some of the 320 families who have benefited so far from the project since it began three years ago shared their experiences at a special event, held in Bede Tower, Ashbrooke.
Working alongside schools, the project, which is delivered by the Foundation of Light, brings together organisations from the city’s voluntary sector to address problems facing Sunderland families, including debt, domestic abuse, bereavement, poor educational attainment, alcohol and substance misuse.
Gary Wright, headteacher at Usworth Colliery Primary School, said: “We have been working with the project for 20 months and it’s made a huge difference.
“There’s been a lot of individual successes, but it’s had an impact on the whole school with counselling for adults and children, and the breakfast club.
“After one parent received counselling, his child’s attendance went from 62% two years ago to 95% today. On the whole, school attendance has gone from 94% to 96.4% which is a huge increase for a whole school.”
Mum-of-four Kim Roper, 37, from Southwick, was so impressed with the programme that she is now chairwoman of a new constituted group, Southwick Helping Hands.
Kim was put in touch with the programme through her twins Aaron and Aidan, 13, who formerly attended Southwick Community Primary School, and daughter Anya, seven, who still attends.
“It’s helped our family a great deal,” she said. “The children have really enjoyed spending family time together at matches and swimming lessons. And it’s helped me too, in terms of employability and confidence.
“In eight months, we’ve gone from one extreme to the other. It’s also signposed me to other help and, as a result, we’ve gone from living in an over-crowded private house, to a lovely Gentoo house.”