Who We Help

Robyn and Shannon

Edinburgh-based STV News anchor Kelly-Ann Woodland volunteered her time to meet young mums Robyn and Shannon and how they’ve been helped to not just survive but thrive during the pandemic thanks Stepping Stones North Edinburgh, a project funded by donations to the STV Children’s Appeal.

Shannon and AJ enjoy a cuddle in cosy pyjamas
Shannon and AJ enjoy a cuddle

Young mums in the north of Edinburgh praise the support service which helped them cope with parenthood during the pandemic …. and it is thanks to funding from STV Children’s Appeal.

The year 2020 was undoubtedly tough for everyone. With lockdown, many felt increasingly isolated … not least, young mums Robyn and Shannon. Like some parents after the birth of their first child, they both felt a lack of confidence. Help was just a step away though.

Mum of one, Shannon, says: “I found ‘Stepping Stones through my health visitor and have been there since. It’s amazing. As well as helping me, it helped my son Aaron Jordon (AJ) as he was so shy. He wouldn’t speak to anyone and it would take him ages to settle in.”

Stepping Stones (North Edinburgh) is a voluntary organisation which provides support services to young parent families and pregnant women living in the North Edinburgh area. It strives to educate families, so they can make positive choices and reduce the isolation often experienced by young parents. At its core, it tries to help young families in any way, be that practical advice, emotional support or simply just being there for the parenthood journey. 

Shannon, who is 21 years old, says:

“Stepping Stones did lots of things with me: helped with my Universal Credit checks; helped me with housing and everything that I needed, such as a washing machine and white goods. I’ve also done qualifications with Stepping Stones, like ‘Raising Children with Confidence’ and mentoring courses.”

From anxiety and isolation to starting college

Gracie and Robyn enjoy a hot chocolate with Kelly-Ann
Gracie and Robyn enjoy a hot chocolate with Kelly-Ann

23 year old Robyn, who is mum to 7 year old Jordan and 3 year old Gracie, credits the charity with transforming her life:

“When I first had my son, I had bad anxiety. I was a bit isolated as I didn’t go to baby groups or anything, so Stepping Stones helped me get out the house and make friends.

Since coming to the group, I’ve done all sorts of things: I got help starting Open University; did lots of courses and college. If I hadn’t come here, I don’t think I’d have been confident enough to go to college.”

The two mums say the Edinburgh-based charity has been a lifeline for young families during the pandemic.

With face-to-face meet-ups at the centre put on hold, regular zoom meetings were organised for both parents and their little ones. 

Stepping Stones also made up activity packs for the families, with a different theme each week. One week it was mask making;  another week baking; then ideas for outdoor fun. The idea being to give young families ideas on how to help children learn from home, with soft plays and cinemas etc all closed due to Covid. 

Shannon: “When Covid first hit, I was living alone with my son AJ, so it was just me and him. But honestly, the packs made by Stepping Stones with lots of different activities kept AJ occupied. We got sent lots of brilliant ideas. The kids all had a zoom in the morning, so they’d see one of the workers from Stepping Stones, sing songs and play activities. Then later in the evening, the adults would have their own zoom class.”

Robyn: “Covid has been really hard. The packs 100% helped, just keeping them occupied, especially when we were not allowed to do anything. It was so hard. Only so much you can think of yourself. So, we’d look forward to them coming and giving us new ideas. The Wednesday night zoom, catching up with everyone really helped too.”  

Funding boost to help families cope during the pandemic

Activity packs were provided to families thanks to funding from STV Children's Appeal
Activity packs were provided to families thanks to funding from STV Children’s Appeal

STV Children’s Appeal has provided Stepping Stones with more than £12,000 in the last year. Breaking it down, £6,500 was given in winter funding in January to help families provide heating and dinners at a time when Covid had made winter seem even tougher. £4,000 was issued at the start of the pandemic when the country had not long gone into a national lockdown. An additional small grant of £2,000 was also allocated last year to help alleviate the stresses felt by many families attending the group. 

Kerry Riddell from Stepping Stones says the funding from STV Children’s Appeal has been a great boost, particularly as the funding wasn’t ring-fenced for a particular use. It meant those running Stepping Stones could decide for themselves how best the money should be spent to help struggling families. 

Kerry: “The type of funding we’ve had – that unrestricted “use it as you see fit” – is very rare and helped us be reactive. 

“So, if people were short of food – with a big issue of lockdown being so many people bulk buying and when you’re on benefits, you don’t necessarily have that financial capacity to stock up on things when they’re there – we were able to help directly. 

“Plus, during lockdown, everyone was at home and children weren’t at school getting school dinners and the likes.  So, having that money from the STV Children’s Appeal really helped Stepping Stones get the help which was needed out there.”

It’s clear to see attending this group has helped young families. Both Robyn and Shannon appeared confident, young mums, with qualifications to boot ….. and it’s all down to a charity which has been boosted by funds from the STV Appeal.

As Robyn puts it: “You just need to think what good money could do. And it will help future generations.”

You just need to look at the smiles on the faces of their children to fully understand that.