A whole family approach to keeping children safe has made ‘a massive difference’ to the lives of some of Peterborough’s most vulnerable residents - a newly published research project has found.
Most children who face the greatest risks are those who live in families where at least one of the adults is struggling with mental or emotional health issues, substance or alcohol difficulties, or where there is domestic abuse – which is what the Family Safeguarding Model seeks to address and change.
Peterborough was one of four authorities that benefitted from initial funding from the Department for Education (DfE) to further test the model, initially developed in Hertfordshire.
And now a DfE evaluation into the project in Peterborough shows how effective it has been at keeping more children safely in their own families and helping parents to solve long standing difficulties in their own lives.
It works by having mental health, substance misuse and domestic abuse specialists working alongside children’s social workers, in one team and supporting the whole family with tailored programmes delivered for individual parents and often in their own homes.
Since the implementation of Family Safeguarding in Peterborough,
- The number of children coming into care has remained stable, while similar local authorities have almost all seen a significant rise.
- The number of children on a child protection plan in Peterborough has fallen by approximately 20%.
- The city has seen a 25% reduction in applications for care proceedings applications going to Court, and care proceedings are now at an all-time low in Peterborough.
The Family Safeguarding teams are made possible through collaboration between Children’s Services, Probation, Barnados; Substance Misuse Provider Change Grow Live; and Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust who have all worked together to support the model.
The DfE evaluation offers clear evidence that family safeguarding delivers improved outcomes for children and families by providing timely support to improve outcomes for families and children – with parents reporting that they find the approach supportive and empowering, and that their lives have improved as a direct result of this approach.
A member of one family, who had been subjected to domestic abuse for a number of years, has praised their local family safeguarding team, saying:
“I was in a really abusive, controlling relationship - to the extent that my partner wouldn’t let me watch TV, make phone calls or even let me read my own post. It really damaged my mental health and self-esteem. Our children weren’t allowed to socialise with my family and sometimes they were stopped from going to school or to even go to the bathroom in peace.
“I cannot express enough how grateful I am to the friendly, dedicated support I received; the specialist team really took the time to understand my entire situation without judgement and were able to offer expert advice along the way. They even offered my children Christmas presents which they absolutely loved.
“I now have full custody of my children and we are all doing so much better; I have got my confidence back and the children are much happier and are loving going to school and are living a normal, healthy life.
I don’t want to imagine what life would be like right now if it weren’t for the support we received and all the positive changes we’ve seen. It was an emotional time all round, but there’s only happy days ahead for us now.”
All of this leads to more children being kept safely at home with their families – the ultimate vision for family safeguarding.
The model is endorsed strongly by Family Safeguarding staff who told researchers that they believe it is the best model for delivering Children’s Social Care Services.
One social worker said: “I like the family safeguarding model because it provides a step-by-step process to enable us to really get to know the families we work with, to gain their understanding of why we are involved, to support them to reflect on the impact of identified risks and to support them to identify what changes could be made for the benefit of their children and family as a whole.”
The project has now been rolled out to Cambridgeshire after the county council secured a £4.15million investment from the Department for Education (DfE) for its implementation in February this year.
Lou Williams, Service Director for Children & Safeguarding for Peterborough and Cambridgeshire, said: “I would like to thank our committed and innovative teams for making our Family Safeguarding Model such a great success, and our colleagues from Hertfordshire who have done so much to support us
“Family Safeguarding is a brilliant approach, which makes a life-long difference to our most vulnerable children and their families
Parents tell us that the approach has made a massive difference, enabling them to address long standing difficulties in their lives, to the benefit of their children.”
Councillor Lynne Ayres, Cabinet Member for Children's Services, Education, Skills and the University, said: “I am extremely proud of our dedicated Family Safeguarding Teams in ensuring that our new Safeguarding Model has been making such a positive difference to our children and families in Peterborough.
“Supporting our most vulnerable children will always be our top priority and I am confident this model will continue to do just that.”