Westminster Befriend a Family

Putting Children First


Putting Children First

Westminster Befriend a Family is supporting the campaign to have a Cabinet Minister for Children and Young People.

The Children First campaign asks for the Government to put children at the heart of all its decision-making. This is because children’s needs cannot be confined to a single issue or policy. Children will always elude being pigeon-holed.

Though there is currently a junior Ministerial post for children, the position does not have the weight of authority to drive forward integrated cross-departmental responses to the challenges faced.

In creating the campaign, Children First identified five 21st century challenges hindering healthy development in today’s children.

  • Obesity and Physical Inactivity: Over one third of our children are overweight or obese, according to the Department of Health ISCIC, Statistics on Obesity, Physical Activity and Diet. Children growing up in low income groups typically live in neighbourhoods with a denser supply of fast food outlets; less availability of fresh fruit and vegetables and fewer safe places for physical activity. Fruit and vegetables can be 30-40% more expensive in poor neighbourhoods (‘Going hungry: the struggle to eat healthily on a low income’: NCH, The Children’s Charity, 2004).

  • Adverse Childhood Experiences: The Institute for Fiscal Studies predicts that 3.5 million children (one in four) will be in absolute poverty by the end of the next Parliament (‘Bridging the Social Divide,’ March 2015). In 2015 to 2016, around 1 in 4 children resided with at least one parent reporting symptoms of emotional distress (Gov. UK March 2016).

  • Rising mental health issues: Almost 19,000 children were admitted to hospital after harming themselves in 2015 – a 14% increase over three years. Over half of all mental ill health starts before the age of 14 (Local Government Association, February, 2018). One in ten children and young people have some form of clinically diagnosable mental health disorder. This equates to around 850,000 children and young people with a diagnosable mental health disorder in the UK today (ONS, 2016).

  • Dominance of social media and screen time influence: The Persil/Unilever Project ‘Dirt is Good’ campaign found that most primary school age children spend less time in outdoor play than prisoners are required to have by law. According to the Association of Play industries, which submitted Freedom of Information requests, 112 playgrounds were closed in the 2014-15 financial year, a further 102 were closed in 2015-16. Councils revealed 80 more closures in 2016-17 followed by at least 51 more closures planned for 2018.

  • Socio-economic disadvantage and cultural/ethnic divide: There are now constituencies in the UK where more than half of the children are growing up in poverty. Among the 20 parliamentary constituencies with the highest levels of childhood poverty, seven are located in London. Statistics from the Race Disparity Audit (Race Disparity Audit Summary Findings from the Ethnicity Facts and Figures, Oct 2017, updated March 2018) says: “Asian and Black households and those in the ‘Other’ ethnic group were more likely to be poor and were most likely to be in persistent poverty.”

Find out more about the campaign and how to support it on the Children First website.


Helping others can help you too

About Roopa

Originally from India, 23-year-old Roopa completed a Master’s Degree in Development Studies at the London School of Economics before becoming our volunteer event organiser and fundraising intern.

Why volunteer with Westminster Befriend a Family?

“I want to pursue a career in development studies hopefully working for a not-for-profit organisation or an NGO or any organisation that works directly with development issues,” she said. “I also wanted to get some experience of how the charitable sector works here. As WBAF works with vulnerable families and young people who are socially disadvantaged and living in poverty, this charity fits very well with the kind of career I am interested in.”

What do you do here as a volunteer?

“I work in the charity’s office researching potential sponsors and donors who will help the charity continue its work. It involves lots of online research finding out information on local businesses and the contact details of the people best placed to help us. So far I have made contact with about 200 businesses, hotels, restaurants, pubs and spas etc., and I’m hoping we can build up more relationships so they can help us in any way they can, whether it’s through direct donations or by providing raffle and auction prizes.

What have you learned from your experience?

“Volunteering has been really useful for expanding and improving my research, communication and organisational skills. I’ve been meeting and talking to all kinds of different people, explaining what we do and trying to gain their support. I’ve been able to gain a lot of invaluable experience. When I go back to India, working for organisations that don’t have much in the way of resources, these skills will be of great value.”

Roopa also believes the experience has helped her grow up. “Being here, in London, without my parents or any family around, I’ve had to take care of myself.  I didn’t have any idea of how to navigate this place or about volunteering before, but now I do. It’s been like starting life from scratch at age 22. It’s made me grow up, be stronger and be much more independent,” she said.

If you would like to volunteer, make a difference and help yourself, click http://www.befriendafamily.co.uk/volunteer-8/ to find out more.


Shop till you drop

We are always pleased when we can offer you ways to continue to help us without too much effort on your part. And here are two fantastic opportunities to do so.

Smile just for us

You can help swell donations to the charity whenever you shop online – and it won’t cost you any more than you would have spent. How? By doing your shop using Amazon Smile!

Same products, same prices

Amazon Smile offers you exactly the same products at the same prices as you’ll find on Amazon. Only by selecting us as your preferred charity, Amazon Smile will donate 0.1% of the net cost to us. The more you shop, the more we get. How simple is that?

So that you don’t forget, why not save this link: https://smile.amazon.co.uk/ch/1082452-0 as a favourite to your browser, and then every time you want to do an Amazon shop this link will automatically take you to our charity’s link on Amazon Smile.


Earn rewards for you and us

The Co-op has also decided Westminster Befriend a Family can benefit from its Local Community Fund.

So for the next 12 months every time members shop at the Co-op and buy own brand products and services, 1% of what they spend will help fund community projects where they live. The money raised from selling shopping bags will also go to the Local Community Fund to help even more.

Becoming a member is easy

Just follow this link www.coop.co.uk/membership to become a member and chose us as your charity. And just like any loyalty card it will earn rewards for you and us at the same time.

Shop at #TheCoopWay and #amazonsmile now and help us continue supporting vulnerable families in Westminster to turn their lives around.



Thank you to Waitrose & Partners

We are delighted to announce that several Waitrose & Partners stores in Westminster have decided to support Westminster Befriend a Family this Christmas.

Generous donations

Recently the branch in Belgravia handed over £380 to us from generous customers choosing our charity to give their ‘green tokens’ to, and we received almost £400 from the Waitrose & Partners branch in Bressenden Place near Victoria Station.

We are absolutely delighted. Thank you to Waitrose & Partners and thank you to their customers.


Give us your green tokens

If you intend to shop in any Waitrose & Partners store in Westminster this December, please keep your eyes open for a Westminster Befriend a Family charity bin where you can drop your green tokens. It really does raise money for a great local cause – helping some of the most disadvantaged and vulnerable families in the borough help themselves.

Thank you.



November Volunteer of the Month: Ali

A bit about Ali and his mentee Joseph.

Ali, 27, has been mentoring 17 year-old Joseph (not his real name), for five months. As one of Westminster Befriend a Family’s volunteers he plays a crucial role in helping Joe realise his potential. Joe doesn’t have his parents around, only his siblings. His family has been fractured and his background has been severely coloured by the whole experience.

What was Ali’s biggest challenge?

At first, Joe’s experiences made it hard for him to trust people, said Ali. “When I first met him, Joe found it very difficult to find the right words when trying to explain himself. He wasn’t doing anything with his life. He wasn’t in education, he wasn’t working. He never took anything seriously and, at such a young age, he had kind of given up on life. His background has been very difficult and I would say he was a bit ‘broken’ in a way. But soon he began to trust me and we developed a connection.”

What was the result of making that connection?

“Now, he’s taking things a little more seriously,” said Ali. “He enrolled in and is going to college, so he’s getting up and out of the house, at least. He’s able to explain himself more clearly and he’s grown in confidence. And while it’s still too soon to see where he is headed – there will be time for him to work that out later – he’s much more optimistic about his future than he was.”

How has mentoring Joe helped Ali?

Ali’s own life has benefited from his mentoring, too. Even though he has completed his studies in architecture and an internship at an architecture and design company, Ali still wasn’t sure of his abilities to be a mentor and to communicate clearly.

He said: “Now I feel I am a much better communicator. I am more confident in my abilities to show Joe, or any young person, a way forward than I was when I started. In the beginning I didn’t know whether what I was doing with him was helping or not. Five months on I see that my methods are working and that has made me much more certain of myself.”

More about our mentoring scheme

Westminster Befriend a Family’s mentoring and befriending programmes only last for six months at a time during which volunteers spend two to three hours on the same day every week building trust and lending their support. This way, families get the support they need while they take crucial steps forward. However, they are also given the space to manage their own future and become more self-reliant.

What’s next for Ali?

When Ali finishes his time with Joe, he’s considering being a mentor for another vulnerable young person, referred to Westminster Befriend a Family, who is in much need of support.

From all of us at Westminster Befriend a Family, thank you Ali for all your hard work and continued commitment to helping support vulnerable families in Westminster.

If you’d like to volunteer click www.befriendafamily.co.uk/volunteer-8/ and find out more.