Kitchen Table Talks Overview

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Kitchen Table Talks Overview

Kitchen Table Talks: Starter

Kitchen Table Talks is a platform that facilitates community-based, parental peer support networks.

Founded by First Class Foundation chief executive, Sabrina Dennis in 2017 the programme was initially delivered as a six-month self-funded pilot.

It was born out of Sabrina’s desire to discover more about her teenage daughter’s use of social media and engage in meaningful conversations with other parents, families and young girls in her local community.

The concept is based on the premise of the kitchen as the traditional heart of any home.

Family breakdowns and the pressures of daily life have often led to the erosion of personal relationships and verbal communication. Kitchen Table Talks is designed to redress that balance, encouraging open dialogue in a welcoming kitchen-style setting within a neutral venue.

The Kitchen Table Talks recipe:

  • Aspirational local venues, easy to reach via public transport
  • Flexible timings and virtual options to suit all facets of local communities
  • A neutral setting where everyone feels listened to and advocated for
  • Participants invited to “share their truth” with other parents, families and young people
  • Access to invited subject experts on a range of identified topics
  • Signposting to specialist information, advice and guidance services

Kitchen Table Talks: Main Course

The pilot initiative quickly gained traction. An increasing number of parents – of young males and females – expressed interest in attending Kitchen Table Talks, and discussion topics broadened into issues including youth violence, knife crime and county lines.

Evidence proved that the concept was successful and it led to a three-year funded project with Sandwell Youth Offending Service, specifically targeted at supporting parents whose children are engaged in the youth justice system in the Sandwell and Walsall areas.

In October 2020, The Youth Justice Board for England and Wales announced the appointment of First Class Foundation to deliver monthly Kitchen Table Talks as a regional “pathfinder” project.

Its aims are to reduce serious youth violence in the West Midlands by exploring and sharing solutions to some of the toughest issues the youth justice system is facing.

Services can be accessed by parents with children known to or at risk of involvement with the Youth Offending Service (YOS), with key findings fed back to Youth Offending Teams (YOTs) via weekly updates and monthly newsletters. Sessions typically last between 1-3 hours.

Outcomes include:

  • A supportive space for parents to share experiences and learn from each other
  • Reduces isolation in parents who have children open to YOS
  • Creates a ‘bridge’ between parents and the YOS for better working relationships
  • Delivers awareness raising sessions to parents on key topics
  • Provides a strategic voice for parents, involving them in decisions about YOS delivery

The pathfinder is delivered collaboratively between the following seven YOTs: Birmingham, Coventry, Dudley, Sandwell, Solihull, Walsall and Wolverhampton in conjunction with their local Violence Reduction Unit. More than 70 young people have been engaged to date (May 2021).

Kitchen Table Talks: Dessert

Sabrina Dennis said: “Kitchen Table Talks encourages communication of all kinds in the belief that having a safe and open platform for parents and carers will support growth and confidence. When individuals feel listened to and advocated for, the likelihood of them being more open increases. We’re very proud that what started off as an idea to support parents in Sandwell, is now a regional service. It will encourage parents to know that they are not alone and that with access to peer-to-peer support, education and mentoring from relatable role models, they can overcome the many challenges that arise during a parenting journey.”

Sabrina Dennis is chief executive of First Class Foundation and founder of Kitchen Table Talks. A published author and public speaker, she is married to Nathan Dennis, co-founder and trustee of First Class Foundation and senior consultant at Legacy Consultants. The couple have four daughters and live in Walsall.

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