Foreword by Better Start Bradford, Head of Programme, Gill Thornton:
“As part of our year of learning, ‘Nurturing Knowledge’ we focused on the importance of relationships in our first quarter. This continues to be a fundamental part of Better Start Bradford’s approach and our Programme behaviours. The interview with Satnam illustrates how that works in a particular context and vividly describes how that interaction made him feel.”
Interview with Satnam Singh Better Start Bradford Community Board Member
It’s crucial for Better Start Bradford that every project, activity and event we deliver for our families and children 0-3 responds to our community’s needs. We tune in to the community voice in several different ways; not least through our Community Board Members who form the larger part of our Partnership Board.
Satnam Singh, a local resident and father of three, became a Community Board Member in August 2018. He had initially heard about Better Start Bradford when the original partnership via Bradford Trident were submitting the bid to the National Lottery’s A Better Start programme.
He said “I thought the proposals sounded really good and I had no idea it would turn into what it has when they were pulling all the information together and consulting with us. However, initially I found it frustrating that all this money had been invested and there seemed to be too many office-based staff, but not enough front-line community out-reach workers.”
Abida Rafiq, from our Family and Community Engagement Team, asked him to attend a dad’s workshop that she was running at the Park Lane Centre, where Satnam is based. He said: “Despite being sceptical, I agreed to stay for a while, but ended up staying for the whole session as I found it so interesting. We watched a video on bonding and attachment and it made me realise that I wasn’t actively listening to my children. I was doing what my dad used to do; coming in from work, shattered and wanting my own space.
“I began understanding the importance of reading to your children and the science behind how children’s brains develop. I can remember how positively my son responded when we read together. It was really important to recognise that my child needed my attention and how I should respond.”
I still felt that more needed to be done within the community to get the message out there.
“I still felt that more needed to be done within the community to get the message out there. Admittedly I am quite a sceptical person so whenever I saw Abida, I would question what was happening in the local community and where the money was being spent. Abida was great, because in return she would challenge my thinking, explain the reasoning behind the Better Start Bradford programme and talk about the extensive work that Better Start Bradford were doing to engage the community.”
“I would emphasise the importance of developing ongoing relationships with continuous work and effort, and how healthy it is to have open and honest discussions.”
“Abida then challenged me to ‘put my money where my mouth is’ and apply to join the Better Start Bradford Partnership Board as a Community Board Member and be the voice of the community. I did feel that from a local dad’s point of view that the male perspective was missing and so I started to consider it.”
Satnam took some persuading to join the board by Abida, but through the relationship they developed and his desire to voice his initial frustrations about Better Start Bradford, he applied to join the board.
Better Start Bradford welcomed me ‘saying it as it is’!
“I didn’t think they would give it to me as I am quite vocal in my opinion, but they welcomed me for ‘saying it as it is’. Abida had explained that this type of approach is what the Board wanted. Joining the Partnership Board was a turnaround for me: I realised I did have a voice and, as my confidence grew, I felt that I could challenge anything that I felt my community would also challenge or not understand. I could also explain the reality of what was happening in my community.”
“From being on the board I learnt that a lot more goes into setting up projects than I initially realised, and that you can’t get out into the community until all the systems and people are in place, which takes time. You can’t be a bull in a china shop.
“I also act as the ‘community voice’ when we meet organisations that are looking at ways to engage better with their communities. Better Start Bradford invited me to go along to a consultation about their Personalised Midwifery project. Again the sceptic in me thought ‘what do I know?’ but I’m so glad I did. Being a dad myself, I was able to explain to them how a dad feels when they are starting this unknown journey to becoming a father – it’s a scary place for them too.”
I have spent the last nine months getting more involved with local dads.
“I have spent the last nine months getting more involved with local dads and engaging with them about pregnancy and the science behind the developing baby’s brain. I often think ‘well what do I know’, but then I realise that I can share my knowledge and quite often I find that I know a lot more than the dads I am engaging with.”
“Being a Community Board member has taught me a lot. I feel we are getting there and that my voice is being heard. You learn to appreciate where other people are coming from and why they make the decisions that they do. I will always challenge a proposal if I don’t understand what difference it will make, but I know Better Start Bradford is doing the best it can. If you want things to change in your community then get involved. I compare it to people expecting the country to be led properly even when they don’t vote.”
It’s so important for us to have a community voice at every level.
Abida said: “It’s so important for us to have a community voice at every level. I knew that Satnam would be great as a Community Board Member: he really picks up on relevant detail. Once he realised he was being listened to, he got involved in more and more. Satnam is a key player around the table: he challenges in the right way and points out the reality of a situation.”
“It’s important to recognise how crucial it is to build trusting relationships in our line of work. A lot of time and effort is required to build these relationships and this shouldn’t be under-estimated. Working within the Better Start Bradford community came with many external challenges, (cuts to services, introduction of universal credit) and pressures but it is important for us to engage with key individuals by supporting them to be a part of the change they desire for their local community.”
Finally from Gill: “Abida’s final remarks are a good summary of why this relationship based work is so important: It helps us to get our programme right and includes all the important voices.”