Connecting Generations, South Lanarkshire

Overview
All families experience change. However with the prevalence of family break-up, migration and a growing older population, there have been structural changes and changes to traditional values. These have resulted in a growing number of grandparents experiencing loneliness and isolation. In addition, with one in three working parents in the UK relying on grandparents for childcare, grandparents can be under strain themselves and may need support. Good communication is crucial in negotiating boundaries and expectations within family relationships. A recent Oxford University study shows that, at times of family breakdown and separation, many grandparents play an important role in bringing stability, not only to grandchildren but also to the whole family, helping them cope with difficulties and providing practical and emotional support.

(Drawings on this page by children attending Woodpark Primary School, Lesmahago.)

The Connecting Generations Project has been developed to  help grandparents and grandchildren connect through intergenerational mediation, with support from the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation's IntergenerationALL programme.  IntergenerationAll is a new programme to address the most urgent areas for intervention -isolation and loneliness, particularly of older adults, dislocation from family and culture through migration, and the need for shared action to protect our environment. South Lanarkshire has looked at existing support for families and developed the project by building on the success of these services to make them more inclusive and effective.

The project specifically aims to -
• Reconnect grandparents and grandchildren where contact has broken down
• Promote the importance of intergenerational kin networks
• Provide any additional support for parents, grandparents and grandchildren through the counselling service, parenting workshops and child contact centres.

Success factors
* Spending time with a grandparent mediates better social skills and fewer behaviour problems among adolescents, especially those living in single-parent or step-family households
* Grandchildren can be a unifying element, bringing the three generations together, regardless of whether parents and grandparents have harmonious relationships
* Mediation can avoid the strong sense of loss that children may feel if cut off from contact with an existing grandparent
* Mediation often avoids costly, protracted or harmful litigation.

"We have been aware for several years of a gap in mediation services to help grandparents. Grandparents Apart receive a high volume of calls from people desperate to retain or establish contact with their grandchildren. No service has been geared to this particular problem until now." Jimmy Deuchars, Grandparents Apart.

Marjorie and Henry went through a period of estrangement from their daughter and they lost touch with their grandchildren. Margaret feels a service like Connecting Generations could have made a difference: "Not seeing our grandchildren was extremely difficult. Of course the welfare of children must always come first but we believe grandparents can be part of this. Our story may have been different if we had had support earlier on - a third party would have given us the opportunity to try and work things out better for everyone's sake."

Email: Bernadette Lynass, First Floor, Regent House, 9 High Partick Street, Hamilton, South Lanarkshire ML3 7ES
Tel: 01698421333     Family Support Website


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