Vulnerable children in Swindon at risk of being taken into care as a result of their parents’ issues with mental health, domestic violence or addiction will benefit from an early intervention project designed to keep families safely together at home.
Swindon Borough Council is one of 15 areas across the country which will benefit from £84m in government funding to help tackle challenges when they arise at home, boosting family resilience and creating stable homes where children can thrive.
The Council will adopt ‘Family Safeguarding’, one of three successful projects created through the Government’s landmark Innovation Programme designed to support families to stay together wherever appropriate, so that fewer children need to be taken away from their birth families.
All of the projects will be run in line with the core principles of the Children Act 1989, which is approaching its 30th anniversary.
The project, originally designed by Hertfordshire, 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 or partners at risk.
Hertfordshire ‘Family Safeguarding’ project creates teams consisting of mental health practitioners, domestic abuse and substance abuse workers and adult and children’s social workers to work together to improve child protection, working with whole families so that all of their needs are met.
Evaluation shows this resulted in a 39 per cent reduction in the number of days children spent in care, a reduction in cases allocated to the safeguarding team, a 53 per cent drop in in hospital admissions for adults in that family, and a 66 per cent reduction in contact with the police.
Councillor Mary Martin, Swindon Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, said: “I am delighted we have been selected to take part in this new programme because it builds on the work we are doing to improve outcomes for Swindon’s children and families in need of help and protection.
“This also builds on our Good Ofsted result and ensures the children of Swindon, with the support of our partner agencies, are appropriately safeguarded. The Family Safeguarding programme offers wrap-around support for families, particularly those facing issues with mental health, domestic abuse and substance misuse. We are looking forward to starting the programme as soon as we can.
“We look forward to working with Hertfordshire so we can further improve outcomes for children and provide support for their families, ideally keeping them safe within their own homes. Adopting the family safeguarding model has been shown to reduce the number of children requiring long-term care away from their families and this is the best outcome for all.”
Children and Families Minister Michelle Donelan said: “I want every child to grow up in a safe, stable and loving home where they feel supported to take on the challenges life can present. However, in Swindon 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 Family Safeguarding model is already proving to be successful in keeping families safely together, and giving stability for children where it did not exist before.”