Aberlour launches new residential services for children in the Highlands
Three children's houses have opened in the Highlands as part of a new drive to protect some of Scotland's most vulnerable youngsters.
Leading children's charity Aberlour has opened houses in Inverness and Fort William, and a third property in Tain will begin welcoming children in the coming weeks. Each house will provide a home to five children, aged between eight and 18.
It is the first time Stirling-based Aberlour, a national charity supporting vulnerable children and their families, have worked in the Highlands.
Chief executive SallyAnn Kelly said the charity’s houses have opened after a successful search for the perfect properties in the heart of their communities.
She said: “We are delighted to have found ideal houses that will become safe, stable and caring homes to children who really need one.
“We have had great support from our neighbours and the children have already been made to feel part of their communities. We could not have hoped for a warmer welcome.
“These are family homes and the children are part of our family. For some, this may be for a short period, before returning to live with their own family when the time is right. Others will grow up with us into adulthood. All our children will be encouraged to look forward to a happier future.
“Every child deserves the chance to flourish.”
Aberlour provide residential care for youngsters, often in former family homes, designed to provide stability and support for children, who have often endured chaotic, difficult childhoods.
The houses, opened in partnership with The Highland Council, are an extension of the charity's Sycamore service which already manages five houses in Fife. The children have often experienced trauma, which could include witnessing domestic violence or drug and alcohol use in the home.
The children cared for by Aberlour in the Highlands all come from the region but are not able to live with their families. This may be for a short, planned period while a family gets support so that their children can return. Others will live with Aberlour until they are adults.
The charity has also launched Sustain, a support service in Ross-shire helping families with children on the “edge of care.” Trained staff will work to help and support families under pressure in an attempt to keep parents and their children together.
Lois Stewart, who lives near Fortrose, on the Black Isle, and her husband Donald have become huge supporters of Aberlour after the charity discussed buying her house for one of their homes.
Lois, 42, a mum of four, who recently organised five-days of fundraising events for the charity, said: “Unfortunately, the proposal for Aberlour to buy our house didn't work out but we wanted to show our support for what they are planning in the Highlands.
“People here might not be familiar with the charity yet but they do such amazing work.
“We learned a lot about them when we were discussing the possibility of them buying our home and were so impressed by what they do and how they do it.
“People who had experience of Aberlour or worked with them were universally positive and their model of turning family homes into small residential homes seems exactly the right thing to do.
“If a community embraces and supports these houses it can make such a difference to the kids.”
Highland Council have welcomed the charity's new houses and Councillor Alasdair Christie, chair of the People Committee, said: “We are excited to be working with Aberlour and hope this will be the start of a long partnership, bringing both innovation and high quality services to families and children in the area.
“Aberlour have already proven to be completely focused on improving the lives of children and young people and have brought a fresh perspective to the care of the most vulnerable young people, very much including them in how services are run and giving them the chance to be involved.
“They are also keen to work in partnership with other Third Sector providers in Highland and we are keen to promote this, particularly for our Looked After Children as part of our corporate parenting strategy.”