A SCHEME that offers families support through tough times – then trains them so they can help others facing similar challenges – is offering new courses to improve more lives.

The Cornforth Partnership secured funds to set up its new Changing Community Lives project to offer families in the south of County Durham support from family and youth work staff.

They then get the option of continuing this support with a trained peer mentor.

Peer mentors are able to use their own life experiences to support others that may be facing similar challenges, with an aim empowering people to make positive changes and to achieve their own personal goals.

They are trained in understanding the purpose and benefits of peer mentoring, listening and communication skills, self-care, group facilitation skills and supporting others to achieve their own goals.

Volunteers will be matched with families for support one-to-one and can also be supported to set up and run their own support groups in and around the area.

Families will receive support from someone who knows what it is like to face some of the same challenges which could include domestic abuse, financial struggles, social isolation, mental health or parenting issues which can increase confidence and reduce feelings of isolation.

The Cornforth Partnership’s first cohort of volunteer family peer mentors have just completed the NOCN level 2 accredited qualification in peer mentoring.

The charity, based in West Cornforth, is now offering a new fully funded ten week training course in peer mentoring skills to anyone living in the south communities of County Durham.

Funding for the initiative came from the Reaching Communities England fund, administrated by Community Fund.

It is hoped that the initiative will decrease re-referrals into statutory services and improve the lives of families within the community.

Project leaders hope that Changing Community Lives is a lasting legacy to the charity’s much-loved former CEO – Karen Lynn-Jones who lost a long, brave battle with cancer last September.

“Karen worked extremely hard even when poorly to get the project secured and off the ground, she would be extremely proud of its achievements to date,” a spokesperson said.

Tony Cutmore, operations manager, added: “The peer mentoring support is fantastic element of our unique offer to families who are struggling in County Durham. The project is not only supporting those in need but offering the community an opportunity to give something back. We are delighted to be able to offer this additonality to our service delivery.”

New courses will be held in West Cornforth, Willington and Coxhoe. For more information on the training and support available call Emma Craggs at The Cornforth Partnership on 01740-652000 or email emma.craggs@cornforthpartnership.org