IT’S an employability support group with a difference – because baby comes too.

And it’s offering young mums and mums-to- be the advice and opportunities they need to get back into work.

Run by South Shields based charity, Bright Futures, the group is part of the West Harton Employability Project which has just won financial support to the tune of £14,700 from local housing association, Isos.

Lasting 10 weeks, the Young Mums and Mums-to- be Group helps local young women up to the age of 25, overcome some of the barriers they face to employment, as well as providing the practical and emotional support they need to move back into work.

And because babies and toddlers are welcome at the sessions, it also gives the women a rare opportunity to socialise.

The group offers help with employability skills, such as CV writing and interview advice, as well as advising on some of the more practical issues the mums face – accessing childcare and the IT equipment they need to successfully search and apply for jobs online.

Bright Futures also puts them in touch with training providers, giving them a chance to work towards recognised qualifications, and helps them find work experience and volunteering opportunities to strengthen their CVs.

Sessions look at building confidence, too, and offer vital emotional support for some of the young women who have become socially isolated.

One young mum with two children – the youngest is just five months old – already knows what she’s hoping to achieve through the sessions.

She said: “I want to be a teacher; that’s my goal. I love working with children, so I’m hoping to start out as a teaching assistant, perhaps working in a primary school.

“I want to do an Open University degree and although it’s not an option for me right now, it might be when my daughter is a little bit older, so I would like some advice and support about distance learning courses that I can do from home.”

Another young mum already has a degree in childhood and early years studies, but with two children – one aged five and the other just a toddler – her career plans are on hold.

She said: “In the long run I want to be a midwife, but I’m not in the right place right now to tackle that.

“We’ve all had our wobbles – times when we’ve had a few tears and felt a bit down about things – but here we support each other and that’s so important.”

Bright Futures project worker, Ruth Hobson, said: “Commonly the biggest problem all the young mums face is accessing childcare, often because they don’t have an extended family to support them – in fact, sometimes all they have is this group.

“Some of them are also not at the point yet where they are ready to leave their children, so we support and work with them until they feel they are. This group is very much centred on what these young mums need.”

The group meets every Tuesday at the Biddick Hall and Whiteleas Children’s Centre, and is open to young mums in Simonside, Biddick Hall and West Harton, where Isos has a strong presence.

Isos Community Involvement officer, John Temple, said: “Juggling caring for a young family and looking for work can be tough at the best of times, but it can be particularly daunting when you’re a young mum.

“This group provides the sort of supportive and welcoming environment these young mums need, helping them on the road to learning new skills that can really enrich their lives and, hopefully, lead to employment.”

Isos’s financial backing will also help Bright Futures deliver its programme of employability, mentoring and lifestyle support across West Harton. This includes recruiting community mentors to provide advice on housing benefits and working with local secondary schools and South Tyneside Council to target young people in a bid to improve their health, confidence and skills in finding work.

For further information about Bright Futures or the Young Mums and Mums-to- be Group, ring (0191) 455 1196, or log on to www.brightfutures.uk.com