Lifeline for Lone Parents
See the press cutting from the Wymondham Mercury by clicking here
Also view the Wymondham Mercury e-story by clicking here.
single parent families suffering isolation throughout Norfolk are being
thrown a lifeline with the launch of a new support group with a strong
South Norfolk connection.
Julie Briggs from
Hethersett is chair of the newly formed Norwich and Norfolk Gingerbread
group, which already has 30 members since being launched under a month
There are almost
17,000 lone parent families in Norfolk with 1,747 in South Norfolk and the
new group is looking to offer practical and emotional support for as many
of these people as possible as Julie explained:
“It is often
difficult for lone parents to meet and for their children to play together
and share experiences. Bringing up children on your own with the everyday
responsibility resting on one set of shoulders can be very stressful. You
can find yourself very isolated with nobody to share ideas, vent anxieties
or even share your child’s new and exciting developments with.
Gingerbread aims to provide company, fun activities, support and advice to
lone parent families all over Norfolk.”
Gingerbread Norwich and Norfolk is holding weekly Saturday meetings from 2
to 4 p.m at Clover Hill Village Hall in Bowthorpe with toys and crafts for
toddlers, games and music for young children and pool, table tennis,
drinks and snacks for teenagers. Lone parents are able to make new friends
and support each other. In addition the group enjoys monthly fun away
days, parent nights out and is also planning a group holiday in October.
Norfolk Gingerbread has been set-up by Julie, Jenny Blade from Caister and
Louise Watts from Norwich. All are lone parents who were motivated through
isolation, something that is borne out in Julie’s personal experience.
found myself on my own with a new born baby and was looking for support.
There were mum and toddler groups but the mums were married or had
partners. I had left my career to move to Norfolk and needed to re-build
my life. When I moved here there wasn’t anything and I wanted to meet
other lone parents,” she said.
Julie started by
setting up a friendship group from her Hethersett home in 2007.
A friendship group
can use the Gingerbread name but it cannot fund-raise under its banner.
Julie wanted something stronger with proper codes of conduct and child
protection policies and so a fully fledged branch of Gingerbread was
launched in order to provide members with emotional support and financial
and legal advice as well as information on such emotive subjects as child
support and domestic violence. It also provides a database of support
organisations available in Norfolk.
The aims of the
new branch of Gingerbread are simple:
“We want to
reach out to all lone parents. I know some of them are scared to come
along to our meetings as they have been isolated and find meeting new
people daunting, We are a friendly group and they will find us very
welcoming as we are all in the same kind of situation. We can help people
to get through the really bad times. Sometimes with young children days
and weeks can go by without you having an adult conversation and we are
very aware of this,” Julie said adding that her own experiences had been
similar to those of many lone parents.
“I became very
anxious and was quite depressed. My world had come crashing down on me. I
realised it would have been so much easier to cope if I had access to a
support network to help me get through a terrible time in my life. Our aim
is to help people who have suddenly had their world ripped apart and are
suffering from acute anxiety and depression and find themselves on their
own with children. We want them to know that there are people in Norfolk
to support them.
“I had always
thought that I would have a career and family life. You don’t expect the
worst to happen. When it does the wind is knocked out of your sails and
you just spiral downwards. Hopefully that’s where Gingerbread will come
in. The quicker people seek out support the quicker they will get through
the really bad times.”
believes that a group such as Gingerbread helps not only the parents but
also children to come to terms with the situation. “It gives them the
chance to see that there are other young people with only one parent and
so they don’t feel alienated. Potentially we have 17,000 members in
Norfolk. I find it very rewarding that in some way we can make a
difference in people’s lives.”
She has lost track
of the number of people who have already contacted her and shown an
interest in the group. As well as providing support, the county
Gingerbread group is also looking to campaign on issues such as housing
and public awareness.
find that when you are going through the worst time of your life doors
just keep closing in your face. We want to change this .
perception of a lone parent is of an irresponsible teenager and this
couldn’t be further from the truth. Nationally the average age of lone
parents is 36 and that is exactly the age in Norfolk. There are many
prejudices about lone parents. If you don’t work people think you are
lazy. If you do work they think you are neglecting your children.
Sometimes a lone parent will find themselves in a no win situation.”
Julie also pointed
out that the definition of a lone parent was also very different to the
“A lone parent is not only those who have separated from their
partner or are widowed. They can also be the sole carer when a
partner is unable to contribute to childcare due to a disability or long-term illness
or they may be hospitalised or overseas in the forces. People in
these circumstances may be relieved to know there is somewhere they can go
to get some support.”
member of Norwich and Norfolk Gingerbread is 31 and the oldest 48 with
children aged from nine months to16 years. Julie’s son Campbell is now
two and a half.
celebrated its official launch earlier this month (July) by making a giant
6 ft gingerbread man. Babies to teenagers from Wymondham, Hethersett,
Eaton, Caister, Deopham, Bowthorpe, Rockland St Mary, Fleggburgh, Norwich
and Great Yarmouth put their hand prints on the giant mascot.
The group is
hoping to set-up a dedicated web site with contact numbers, advice on a
variety of issues and support. It is also applying for a number of grants
to help with its work.
of Gingerbread costs just £5 and further details are available from Julie
Briggs on 01603 810609 or 07753 822 050. Julie can also be contacted via
e-mail at email@example.com
Norwich and Norfolk Gingerbread have issued a number of Media Releases on their formation. To read these click below.