Wild about you

14 May 2019 | West and South West England

Wild Cornwall - Rob Phillips

Fantastic charity that supports young men and helps them be better dads.

Being a young dad can be tough and in remote areas it can be articularly challenging. That’s why project worker Rob Phillips is doing his best to help young fathers and give them the skills they need to give their kids the best possible start in life.

He works with the charity WILD Young Parents Project which supports parents under the age of 23 and their children across the whole of Cornwall. They offer weekly groups, free crèches, activities and one-to-one support and help from their team of project workers.

This year WILD have been successful in winning a bid to deliver specific dads work, with a series of workshops and programmes.

Drop-in groups have opened in local colleges and a new crèche is planned at their St Austell base, where dads will be able to leave their kids while they attend parenting classes or sessions to help with employment and benefits. Around 120 dads, across Cornwall, will be supported this year.

Rob, 44, said: “In the past we have mostly worked with young mums and their families but now we have the opportunity to focus on the dads.

“For me, it is all about building confidence, self-esteem and resilience. We all give them goals to work towards and look at where they are now and where they want to go.”

Most of the young men he works with are referred from social care or health visitors.

“I will go meet them in a neutral place like a coffee shop and then make an assessment of their needs. They are usually at the point of crisis. I then invite them to come to our groups and to get some peer-to-peer support from others going through the same thing.

“These are young guys who often have mental health problems and were brought up with few positive role models. They find it tough to find work or are in low paid jobs and often have minimal or limited contact with their children because they have been denied access.

“You hear a lot about young men not stepping up but the guys I work with are mostly desperate to see their children and willing to learn how to become good parents and provide.”

He added: “I feel passionate about the young dads. I feel they have been disempowered and that the odds are stacked against them.”

Ellie Nicholas, operations manager at WILD, said: “The young dads like activity, so the best way to engage with them is through something like sport or a group activity. We use it as a means to drive other discussions around parenting, the challenges they might be facing and important issues like mental health.

“We also have an arts and music team in place ready to offer activities like drumming workshops and a new partnership with a sports enterprise means we can offer activities such as volleyball, kick-boxing and badminton.”

Rob recently took a group of young dads out to the beach for some rock pooling. He linked up with a local marine biologist who organised a rock-pool safari.

“We have parents who have never taken their little ones to the beach. It is usually because they were never taken themselves and it becomes a fear of the unknown. So it is great to be able to do something like this and then next time they can bring their little ones.

“The guys were really enthusiastic about it, and spent an hour looking for sea anemones. There was something magic and innocent about it. They all might look like hard, big guys but underneath they are still men who need support.

“After, we went for a coffee and a chat so that anyone could talk about whatever issue they might be facing. The dads left feeling happier and healthier and that is the whole point.”

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