Funding secured for new project to strengthen families

School children
Picture courtesy of Warrington Guardian.
Published: Friday, 4th October 2019

Warrington has been chosen to expand the Government’s landmark ‘Strengthening families, protecting children (SFPC)’ programme to help reduce numbers of children in or at risk of care.

Vulnerable children and young people at risk of being taken into care as a result of their parents’ problems with mental health, domestic violence or addiction will benefit from projects designed to tackle these issues early on and keep them safely together at home.

Backed by £84 million of government funding, children in Warrington will benefit from projects being launched in 15 new areas across the country, designed to tackle challenges when they arise at home, boosting family resilience and creating stable homes where children can thrive.

Warrington will adopt the ‘No Wrong Door’ model, one of three successful projects designed to support families to stay together wherever appropriate, so that fewer children need to be taken into care.

The model, originally developed by North Yorkshire County Council, aims to build resilience among more vulnerable families and improve how councils design and run services, supporting social workers to confidently identify where families can stay together in the home safely, without putting children at risk.

Cllr Matt Smith, cabinet member for children’s services, said: “It’s fantastic news that Warrington has been successful in securing a place on the programme. We’re looking forward to working closely with the Department for Education and North Yorkshire County Council to further improve our practice, bringing together a range of services to support young people with complex needs, so they have the best chance to succeed in life.

"In Warrington, we have an established partnership working between health, education, the police and other public service professionals, which we can build on and improve, and this funding will help us to achieve even better outcomes for young people in need of support. We want to ensure every child has access to the right support when they need it, and that every step is taken to protect them from harm.”

North Yorkshire’s ‘No Wrong Door’ creates ‘hubs’ where young people at risk of going into care get targeted support to cope with the multiple issues they face, including lack of accommodation or contact with the police. Independent evaluation showed the programme saw a 38 per cent fall in arrests of individuals involved during the first 18 months of the programme and a 57 per cent reduction in A&E visits.

Cllr Janet Sanderson, North Yorkshire County Council’s executive member for children’s services, said: “We are immensely proud to be doing this work and extending the ‘No Wrong Door’ model to councils across the UK. We are passionately committed to helping young people turn their back on risky behaviour and to keeping them close to us and their communities with therapeutic, wrap-around, 24/7 support.

“It has attracted a huge amount of interest because of its effectiveness in keeping children out of care and reconnected with their families and communities, and in supporting young people living risky lives to stay safe and achieve in education and in the work place.”

Outcomes for children in care are poor compared with their peers. They are half as likely to meet the expected standards at age 11 and are a quarter as likely to achieve good GCSEs. Into adulthood they continue to have poor outcomes with 39 per cent of all care leavers ‘not in education, employment or training (NEET)’ compared to 12 per cent of their peers, and they are five times more likely to experience the criminal justice system.

Michelle Donelan, children and families minister, said: “I want every child to grow up in safe, stable and loving home where they feel supported to take on the challenges life can present. However, we have seen increasing numbers of children being taken into care, often as a result of their parents’ mental illness, alcohol or drug addiction, or the trauma of domestic violence.

“We cannot ignore the disruption to children’s lives that these issues cause, and that is why this government is investing in projects that tackle problems head on, backed by evidence that shows it can work. The ‘No Wrong Door’ model is already proving to be successful in keeping families safely together, and giving stability for children where it did not exist before.”

A total of 15 areas join three early adopters – Darlington, Cambridgeshire and Middlesbrough – that have already started work on these programmes. All of the projects will be run in line with the core principles of the Children Act 1989, which is approaching its 30th anniversary.