Supporting our most vulnerable families
Our approach to supporting families is child-centred and based on a belief that effective early intervention prevents escalation in children, young people and their families and improves outcomes.
Building attachments between parents and child underpins everything we do.
We build resilience, health and well-being in families, empower parents and develop personal strengths and skills that grow the child in the early years and prepare them for school and for life.
One-to-one family support is embedded within our community-based services to ensure support is accessible and available at as early a point as is possible.
Our offer is therefore based on progressive universalism, providing, on top of our accessible and wide-ranging universal offers, targeted help for those who need it most, proportionate to their level of need.
We use a trauma-informed approach to providing services to enable the underlying need and family circumstances to determine the best approach and intervention for each child and their family.
Quiet times and keepsakes
For vulnerable and priority families who may require a quieter one to one or smaller group session, in Lincolnshire we have developed and established ‘Quiet Times’ and ‘Keepsakes’. These groups help families in accessing the children’s centres, by bringing them together as a supported introduction to the centres before they join and enable them to work towards personal goals such as overcoming anxiety or supports them with a particular area of their child’s development. Families working with social care or early help are referred into this service or educators identify families who need a bit more extra support. These groups are a steppingstone into other Children Centre groups, supporting ACCESS.
Family practitioner service
Our family practitioner service in Lewisham provides 1:1 support to families facing difficult periods and challenges in their lives, and who need some help. As a non-statutory service with a focus on child development, we are trusted to make connections with families in each locality.
We work in partnership with families and a range of professionals to provide focused support for the whole family, intervening as early as possible and preventing escalation to more intense and specialist services, and linking families to any specialist services they may need.
Family Support Workers for Social Communication Needs
In Southend, our Family Support Workers provide a service for families whose child is currently on the Multidisciplinary Assessment waiting list and with concerns around development in (at least) two of these areas: communication; interaction; imaginative play.
They give support and advice such as telephone guidance, home visits and accompanying to appointments, and have personal experience of parenting children with social and communication needs in the local area themselves.
In many areas of our work, we use the Family Star programme to evidence the impact of our one-to-one work with families. The programme is holistic, visual and parent friendly. It captures a shared understanding between practitioner and parent, showing the starting point for a family and how far they have travelled when the support ends. It captures strengths as well as needs and problems and offers a positive approach that is welcomed and trusted by families. Star Online is a web-based application for recording the support and reporting on Family Star outcomes, which gives us clear analytical reports about its impact.
In 2019-2020, 92% of our families in Lewisham demonstrated progress across all areas of Family Star an created positive working partnerships with parents and a joint approach to making and recognising the progress they have made.
‘I felt fully involved. The Star was clear and easy to understand and focused on me as a whole person not just a problem. It felt like a conversation, like the first time someone had really listened to me.’
‘I thought I had an issue with everything and everything was going wrong, but doing the family star points out stuff you are good at and not so good at. So, it’s a lot better than saying I need help with everything. When you do the star you realise you’re not as bad at some things as you thought you were and it makes you feel like things are possible after all.’
For services where the Star is not appropriate to use, the Alliance has developed a bespoke Outcomes Wheel to work collaboratively with families as partners to measure their progress on the journey of change and to capture the positive impact of our work with them.
Safe at Home
Safe at Home is a child accident prevention service delivered through a local multi-agency partnership led by the Alliance in association with Public Health and Bedfordshire Fire & Rescue Service in Luton. The scheme provides a home safety assessment for families with children under five, as most accidents take place in the home. Eligible families can also have safety equipment fitted.
100% of families said the home safety assessment information provided is helpful to them.
In Lewisham, we deliver recovery programmes for children and their parents who have experienced domestic abuse, including CODA (Children Overcoming Domestic Abuse), the Freedom Programme and VOICE.
100% of children attending agreed that:
- Coming on the CODA programme has made me feel more listened to.
- Coming on the CODA programme has made me feel more understood.
- After attending the course, I know what to do to keep myself safe.
- After attending the course, I know I am not to blame for the hurting and fighting in my home.
- Coming to the sessions has made me more comfortable about sharing how I feel.
The videos below illustrate the impact that our recovery support has on children. Using the voices of the children, these powerful videos encapsulate the child’s lived experience and what they have gained as a result of attending the CODA Programme.
‘If you are in a position where this course has been offered to you, I cannot recommend it highly enough…It has given me courage and peace in equal amounts. The group has given my daughter emotional tools and language which she will benefit from the whole of her life…The team members will always have a special place in my heart, they were mine and my daughter’s scaffolding when we were not sure how to hold ourselves up.’
We are now also piloting the CODA programme for children under four, working to enable recovery for children who have experienced domestic abuse in their youngest years, from pre-crawlers to walkers.
We have also worked in partnership with Lewisham local authority to bid successfully for joint external funding from the Home Office and What Works for Childrens' Social Care to support further rollout of these programmes across the borough.
Mental Health Support
During the Covid-19 lockdown it was apparent that many people have suffered with feelings of isolation and anxiety about going back out into public spaces. The Alliance wanted to put a strategy in place to support parents both with their mental health and give them ongoing coping strategies.
We worked in partnership with the clinical lead of ‘Healthy Minds Lincolnshire’ to develop an online series of five session based upon the Five Ways to Wellbeing’. Parents were given tools to manage mental health and a live demonstration for these was delivered via an online platform.
‘I really enjoyed the wellbeing sessions and have put some of the techniques you showed us into practice. I feel more confident and, considering how anxious I was initially, I’m really pleased that I joined. I use the happy place exercise when I’m having a bad day so that really helps me.’
In Lewisham, we worked closely with Bromley, Lewisham and Greenwich MIND to signpost parents for group support, and we have also created a range of videos for parents on Mindfulness and Wellbeing which they can continue to access any time they are needed.
Here is one example: