A CHARITY which helps parents learn the skills needed to bring up their children has won national praise for its work.

Family Links was highly commended in the children and young people’s charity category at the Children and Young People Now awards.

The charity, set up in Oxford 21 years ago, works with parents to give them the confidence, skills and the tools they need to raise children successfully.

It runs a nurturing programme for people struggling with parenting, and gives them resources to help them along the way.

Chief executive Annette Mountford, who brought the idea behind Family Links’s nurturing programme from America 21 years ago, said she was delighted with the praise.

She said: “We were thrilled, because it is a high award and there was huge competition, and even though we technically came second it still means a lot.

“When you are working in the voluntary sector with families which are struggling, you are working at the coal face, and it is so nice for that to be recognised.”

Mrs Mountford, who lives in the city centre and worked as a health officer before she launched the charity, said it had gone from strength to strength.

She said: “We have a team of 20 based in Bobby Fryer Close, Oxford, and three up in Hull, and between us we roll out the programme nationally.”

When she formed the organisation Mrs Mountford, who has lived in Oxford for nearly 30 years, was a health visitor working in Rose Hill.

In her job she was limited to 30-minute visits to families every few weeks.

Having read about the nurturing programme, which was developed in the USA in the late 1970s, and realising she needed more time to have an influence, she set up the charity, taking on the programme’s ethos.

Starting off working with 10 parents and 16 children, Family Links now reaches 30,000 parents around the country and more than 50,000 children annually.

Awards in the category were given to charities which have made a contribution, at a local or national level, to improving the life chances of children, young people or families.

It was one of 21 awards handed out at a ceremony at the Hurlingham Club in London last week and the winner of the category was Streatham-based Redthread Youth Limited.

Achievements had to have been driven through a combination of innovative practice, effective partnership working or campaigning for change.

Family Links has previously been praised for its work with schools in some of Oxford’s most deprived areas such as Pegasus Primary School in Blackbird Leys.