Claire Hawtree, who founded a peer-to-peer support group network ‘Mums and Families UK’ based on her own experience of post-natal depression was announced the winner of the Families Included Prize tonight. After a competitive review of eight final ideas, the mum from south Essex was awarded £10,000 to help further develop the network and reach more local families.
The Families Included Prize - a competition run by Essex County Council in partnership with innovation foundation Nesta - sought to unearth new, innovative ideas to help tackle the issue of social isolation facing Essex families with young children.
The impact loneliness can have on individual parents and families was identified by the council as a key area of concern when it comes to community cohesion in Essex – echoing in sentiment the aims of the recently launched Jo Cox Commission – and the motivation behind launching the Prize.
Claire Hawtree set up and developed Mums and Families UK following her own personal experiences of post-natal depression and anxiety. The programme offers support to mums who suffer with low levels of emotional well-being and are feeling overwhelmed with the challenges that being a parent can bring.
The Prize judges were impressed by the way Claire, her vice-chair Heather Collins and trustees had thrown themselves into the competition process, taking on board advice and guidance to help strengthen the programme and to develop a strong business case for the future.
Cllr Dick Madden, Essex County Council’s Cabinet Member for Adults and Children said: “It was a privilege to chair the judging panel and to hear and see how far every finalist has progressed since last summer and to hear of their plans for the future.
“The overwhelming thing that struck my fellow judges and I about Claire and Heather was how their own experiences had given them real understanding of the issue, as well as their passion and enthusiasm throughout the pilot phase. To all of us they truly encapsulate the essence of what this prize is all about.”
“Drawn from the heart of the Essex community, Mums and Families UK is a powerful and moving example of how a personal experience can be the founding inspiration for an organisation that helps others going through the same thing - we are excited to follow the network’s development and wish it every success,” said Constance Agyeman, Development Manager at the Challenge Prize Centre at Nesta. “We’re delighted to have worked with Essex County Council over the past year and hope the partnership will act as a model for how a challenge-led approach can be used by other UK councils to mobilise the talents of their communities and pro-actively tackle the social issues affecting their regions.”
Lorraine Jarvis, CEO, Chelmsford CVS and Tracy Rudling, CEO, Colchester CVS said: “It has been an absolute privilege to have worked with the finalists. We are proud to have helped develop some of these projects and see the inspiration and passion from people who want to make a real difference. They have taken their ideas and personal journeys from a real embryonic stage and made it into a reality.”
The judges also made the decision to award an additional prize of £5,000 to Gemma Wright and Lucy Blazheva for their Interactive Family Dance programme. The pair overcame impressive hurdles during the idea pilot phase and are currently reaching out to local organisations and companies with their bold proposal in order to develop their work further
Fifty ideas were initially submitted to the Families Included Prize by individuals, groups and organisations across Essex. The judging panel made up of parents, early years professionals and others who are in regular contact with Essex families met in the summer of 2016 to whittle down these ideas to 10 finalists (later becoming 8).
Each of the finalists received £1,500 in addition to advice from a local support agency to test and develop their ideas further. In January, the finalists presented their developed ideas back to the judging panel ahead of the winner being awarded £10,000 to take their idea forward.
Families Included is the first in a series of Essex Challenge Prizes to be run by the Council.