A summer of fun and play!

Circle have been working across Central Scotland since 2006 to improve the lives of children by strengthening families. This summer all of our Projects: Haven, Harbour, FABI, East Lothian and West Lothian have been busy organising fun and supportive activities for the families supported by Circle.

The summer programme provides essential support for many of our families, who are often vulnerable and isolated during the summer holidays. Holiday periods can bring increased financial pressures, lack of structure and lack of support from school and nursery. As a result, children and young people may have limited opportunities over holiday periods and may not socialise with peers as they would if school or nursery was available.

Circle’s summer programme not only provides time and space for fun and play, but it also means that we can provide:

  • Structure and routine for families.
  • Opportunities for parents to gain support from workers and peers and meet other workers in the team.
  • Opportunities for children to socialise and have fun with their families in a safe and supported environment.
  • New experiences and adventures throughout Scotland.
  • Space to have regular contact with vulnerable families.

Although Circle’s summer programme provides support and structure, we also love to have fun. Let’s take a look at what our projects got up to this summer…!

Harbour – Partnerships to support families

This summer we delivered our biggest programme yet. In partnership with Edinburgh Recovery Activities (ERA) and Sunflower Garden, we ran a total of 10 family activity days as well as a family friendly session at the Recovery Café each Wednesday. Our activities included a trip to the beach, a visit to an adventure playground and a trip to the Zoo.

Working with ERA and Sunflower Garden increased the support and resources for families across Edinburgh who are or have been affected by parental substance use. Feedback from children and parents has been really positive.

Harbour summer collage

“My son enjoyed getting out and playing with others at places he normally wouldn’t go”.

“I’m so grateful to have joined this group. It can feel quite lonely as a parent stuck in a loop. I’m glad we went and had good memories”.

Case study

One of our Harbour Mum’s described the summer programme as a ‘lifeline’. She is a single parent to a 7-year-old and has previously had issues around alcohol use and poor mental health, alongside longstanding serious physical health issues. The family are very isolated and have limited family support available. The family have been supported by our Harbour Project since December 2022 and gave the below feedback:

“Thanks so much for your help I am not sure where I would be without the trips in summer. The ERA Cafe was great as it was a good chance to meet new people and chat about things. I feel there was a big variety of trips. I like having a weekly offer. I feel there is always someone there at Circle to speak to”.

Upskilling at Harbour

We are delighted that one of our team is undertaking a Diploma in Therapeutic Life Story Work. This is a great opportunity for us to add to the range of skills within the team and the ability to offer support to children and young people who have experienced trauma.

Another member of the team is currently training to be an accredited Parents under Pressure (PuP) Practitioner. This is a programme which we use widely within the Harbour Project, and already have 5 PuP accredited staff in the team. The PuP model fits really well with Circle’s approach and provides a consistent and measurable programme for use in supporting families.

Any questions about our Harbour Project can be sent to the Project Manager, Julie King.

West Lothian – Art Therapy for Families

Circle’s West Lothian Project aims to work alongside families to identify needs and build on strengths, skills, and solutions to reduce the impact of parental substance use.

Our West Lothian families co-delivered weekly family art sessions in partnership with West Lothian Drug and Alcohol Service (WLDAS). WLDAS have an Art Therapist in post who worked with our families to support the art sessions.

Our families loved the experience as it was an opportunity to experience messy play and explore painting with their babies. This kind of activity strengthens bonds between families, some made hand and feet prints which they took home and framed as a keepsake.

“Giving my baby a chance to mix with other children of all ages and speaking with other mums who were non-judgemental because they also needed extra support”.

Older children were also involved, creating lovely art work using their hands and feet whilst the parents had the opportunity to be introduced to all the benefits of Art Therapy.

“I loved seeing my child play with other baby’s. I enjoyed meeting new mums; I feel it’s a very safe place to speak”.

Children's art work

Our weekly art sessions accommodated for the whole family and truly addressed the unique needs of individual family members whilst also providing a space to strengthen relationships.

“It was good for me to get some adult time and form friendships with the ladies in the group. The children have all formed lovely friendships together”.

The West Lothian team received amazing feedback from the sessions, and it’s clear how much the project supported families during the summer holiday period.

Any questions about our West Lothian Project can be sent to the Project Manager, Hazel Tyson.

East Lothian – Importance of play and exploring

The East Lothian Project provide a wide range of whole family support services to strengthen and build resilience in families by offering practical, emotional, parenting, and advocacy support to children and families affected by parental substance use.

children making art

The team were very busy throughout summer, with countless activities organised to support families throughout the holiday period.

Recognising the importance of play on young children’s wellbeing, our children’s resilience workers organised a play group for children in Haddington library. It was a fun afternoon of arts, crafts, and games, helping to build children’s confidence, social skills, and relationships.

Alongside many other activities, we had a successful family day at Newhailes house and gardens in Musselburgh, where our families gathered for a delightful time at in the Weehails playpark – the children enjoyed climbing and hiding in the fort!

children playing outside

In preparation for kids returning to school, we offered extra support to families by helping them adapt their routines. Thanks to the National Lottery Community Anchor Fund, we were able to provide gas and electricity cards as well as support for purchasing back to school clothing which was greatly appreciated by several families.

Any questions about our East Lothian Project can be sent to the Project Manager, Angela Gentile.


Haven – Connecting communities

Circle’s Haven Project offers a mix of whole family support services that are strengths-based and solution focused. The project is primarily focused on supporting babies, mothers, fathers, and children alongside their families.

dad and son at zoo

Our Haven team had a huge turnout this summer with 40+ families attending our big day out at Edinburgh Zoo. It was amazing to learn about all the animals and we even had our own Zoo Ranger tour! A big thanks to Edinburgh Zoo for supporting our work.

Our DADtastic group were very busy attending the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Falkirk Wheel, Kelpies and Helix Park, Volcano Falls Fountain Park, and the Colour Bomb Festival (to name a few)! We have a fantastic group of Dad’s who are incredibly focused on spending time with their kids and making lasting memories together.

Great day out. Dad and daughter day at the three sisters show making memories happen. Thanks to Circle DADtastic” – DADtastic Dad

Our Baby groups were active over the summer spending time together at Haven. The groups are a great way for local mothers to build their confidence and create a sense of community.

Circle gave me a lot of confidence. The more times I attended the group, the more confident I became.” – Mother in Baby Brunch group

The Mentoring Project (previously ISSEP)

Our fabulous ISSEP project has officially been renamed as ‘The Mentoring Project’. The Mentoring Project provides a safe and secure space for children to play and build friendships with the support of their mentor. Our new Mentor Co-ordinator, Katie, has been busy organising summer activities for all the children supported by the project.children eating icecream at SHE community allotment

Family Feedback

Our team have had an instrumental impact on the families they support, with some of our parents giving feedback on the groups.

“Today’s adventure with the Circle DADtastic to The Falkirk Wheel, The Kelpies and Helix Park was a great day out with loads of happy memories made & lots of fun had by all.” – DADtastic group member

“What a great day with the bairns & fellow dads from Circle DADtastic. After another recent stumble in my recovery journey, today was a well needed reminder to put my energy into my recovery so that I’m present & being the best dad I can be for my 2 amazing kids” – DADtastic group member

“The group got me out of the house and made me feel so much more relaxed”. – Mother in Baby Brunch group

Any questions about our Haven Project can be sent to the Project Manager, Emma Hinton.

FABI – Team development and recognising existing partnerships

Circle’s FABI team had a busy summer filled with fun activities! With 38 children and parents going along to exciting locations like The Time Capsule, Summerlee Heritage Park, Calderglen Country Park, the Zoo and The Helix Park. We saw the iconic Kelpies and celebrated National Play Day with the theme of ‘play on a shoestring’! It was lovely to see families spend the day bonding and enjoying fun outdoor games, playing in the parks, and taking part in a scavenger hunt.

children building sandcastles

Thanks to the Enhanced Summer Provision Fund South Lanarkshire we provided 26 families with summer activity packs. The packs included toys and games!

toys for kidsAnother thanks to Warburtons who funded a ‘Family Food Feast’ programme over four weeks. Families received a kitchen essentials starter pack and vouchers for purchasing ingredients to cook some yummy and healthy meals!

The programme allowed families to share ideas and tips with each other. It was a great opportunity to learn how to eat well on a budget and enjoy cooking together.

children cooking

Family Wellbeing Team

Circle’s Family Wellbeing Team provides intensive wellbeing and therapeutic counselling to parents dealing with complex health and social care issues. These often stem from poor mental health, domestic abuse, and trauma. The project delivers a blend of one-to-one support alongside a group work programme. It supports parents and families (16 and over) to improve their mental health and wellbeing.

Our recent group session on ‘Healthy Lives’ focuses on nutrition, sleep, exercise, and healthy relationships and received positive feedback. The group participants found them beneficial and felt a sense of community, reducing feelings of isolation at home.

Since 29th of August, the team has started conducting their group work programme on ‘Managing Stress and Anxiety’. For more details and how to join the group, check out our Family Wellbeing Poster (PDF).

New Developments

We are excited to share that the FABI team have been successful with two Corra Foundation National Drugs Mission Fund applications, in partnership with Recovery Scotland. Corra Foundation funding is providing us with the opportunity to develop the following two new services…

North Lanarkshire (Addiewell): supporting fathers to deliver an intensive whole family support, therapeutic counselling, and children’s resilience service. This is in response to the complex health and social care needs experienced by children and their families. Often, due to their experience of substance use, domestic abuse and poor mental health.

Clackmannanshire (supporting women who are mothers): to deliver whole family support, therapeutic counselling, and children’s resilience services in Clackmannanshire. This is in response to the complex health and social care needs experienced by children and their families. Often, due to their experience of substance use, domestic abuse and poor mental health.

We look forward to the service delivery commencing in October 2023. Watch this space for further news and updates on these services.

Scripture Union

Summer 2023 brought another fantastic season of partnerships with Scripture Union Scotland and Prison Fellowship Scotland. We had 23 excited young people attend summer camps, and their experiences were truly remarkable.

The young people shared that the best part of camp was “trying new activities,” and the leaders at camps were “good, fun and helpful.” They would encourage those who haven’t been to camp to“ just have fun, make friends, try things.” 

Parents commented on their child’s experience with one mum expressing, “He loved every minute, for someone who was apprehensive about going, he is wanting to go back next year. He benefitted by trying new things. I was really proud of him. I never thought he would have tried half the things he did. He really did come out of his shell and got on well with the other wee boy he went with. This really helped him.”

We know how important the experience is for our young people to go to camp. They make new friends and have new experiences. However, the camp leaders are also impacted by the relationships they make with young people. One camp leader expressed:

I just wanted to let you know what a joy it’s been to have wee (young person) on camp this week. From the very first day he threw himself into the experience, on the first night I asked for hands up for seconds of sausages and he put both hands straight up! He’s been confident in the whole group even though he’s one of the smallest ones. We’d love to see him next year if there’s the opportunity!”

Any questions about our FABI Project can be sent to the Project Manager, George Lyttle.

Support Circle’s Work

Without your support our projects could not deliver the innovative, and vital, work that you have just read about. Making a lasting difference to the lives of children, and families, affected by poverty and struggling with social inequality takes time, patience and high quality staff.

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