Action for Change
To prevent more children being taken into care
Staffing costs of £106,750 in 2015/16, funded by tri-borough children’s services covering Kensington and Chelsea, Hammersmith and Fulham and Westminster
One quarter of children involved in care proceedings in England are born to a parent who has been through the process before, according to data from the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service. In an effort to tackle this, Kensington and Chelsea Council’s family and children’s services launched a programme to help parents make the changes needed to prevent subsequent children being taken into care. The service, based within Kensington and Chelsea’s Early Help for Families service, began working across the three boroughs in February 2014.
Parents who have had children removed are referred to the scheme by social workers once care proceedings are over. The project only works with those who agree to take part. Others working with the family, such as substance misuse, housing, or mental health professionals, can also refer parents, or they can self refer.
Programme lead Baanu Baghbani-Irvine meets parents to explain the programme and hear their story. “We need the parent’s narrative, which is often very different to what the social worker has seen,” she explains. “This gives us a better idea of where they’re at and what support they need.”
Baghbani-Irvine then matches the parent to the right member of the programme’s four-strong team. Workers have specialist knowledge in areas such as addictive psychology and parenting and the team includes a domestic violence worker, funded by the European Commission’s Daphne programme. “Families may just want to talk about their housing situation initially, or their benefits or health issues,” explains Baghbani-Irvine. “Once we’ve supported them through that and built a relationship, we can then work with them.”
The worker provides intensive one-to-one therapeutic and practical support about once a week, helping parents towards goals such as overcoming depression or addiction, and to access services that may have stopped following their child’s removal. They help parents explore and address the issues behind their children’s removal, such as mental health, domestic violence and physical abuse, and to recognise how childhood abuse they may have suffered has affected their own parenting. Clients may be offered therapy such as family or cognitive behavioural therapy.
Staff help clients overcome anger about their child’s removal and understand the concerns leading to it. This is vital as some parents “think they can just keep having children until the authorities let them keep one”, says Baghbani-Irvine. “It’s fundamental for them to reflect on what happened and begin to accept they need to make changes,” she adds.
Parents are re-assessed every three months. “We try to get parents to step back and see there was a time when they weren’t ready to be a parent, but that can change,” says Baghbani-Irvine.
So far just one client has gone on to become pregnant. The support she received meant her baby was able to stay with her and another child was returned to her care.
A January 2016 performance report, produced by the tri-borough councils, shows 51 referrals since February 2014. Of these, 45 engaged with Action for Change, with five completed cases. The report estimates the project helped prevent seven pregnancies in 2015/16 and consequently prevented seven children being taken into care. This has saved an estimated £103,250 in the cost of care proceedings alone (see graphic).
Of 29 clients with substance misuse issues at referral, seven had reduced use by their latest three-month review. Of 33 clients with untreated mental health issues at referral, 20 were accessing relevant support services at their latest review. The 18 clients reporting domestic abuse at referral had reduced to two by their latest review.
Savings from seven prevented pregnancies
Results from the Action for Change programme in 2015/16
Cost of care proceedings saved £210,000
– Cost of programme £106,750
Total savings = £103,250
Source: Action for Change
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