Safe Families for Children
We (Safe Famlilies for Children) were awarded £2.35m to extend an early intervention/edge of care pilot programme in which volunteers provide respite care for families during times of crisis. We discovered that it takes a lot of time for local authorities and practitioners to build up confidence in an untested innovation.
We are a charity founded in the USA that provides vulnerable families with three types of family support, respite for the children to live away from home for short periods; friendship for the main carer, usually the birth mother; and resources to help make the family home a healthy environment for children. All three family supports are provided by religious volunteers. In 2013, we established a new charity to pilot the programme in some local authorities in North-East of England. As part of the Innovation Programme, we worked with 20 local authorities, involving 3063 volunteers supporting 1055 families.
The funding allowed us to collaborate with the Darlington Social Research Unit to:
- Widen the programme focus to two categories of children, those on the edge of care and those in need of ‘early help’
- Improve programme effectiveness
- Introduce the programme to 150 English Local Authorities over a 12 month period
- Subject the intervention to rigorous evaluation to estimate the impact of flows on children into care, birth parent outcomes, child outcomes, volunteer and user satisfaction
- Test two ancillary innovations: a new social financial model called a Public Social Partnership that allowed local authorities to ‘try before buying’; and, seminars to help local authorities manage system dynamics and reap the full benefits of children diverted from the care system by the programme
There is the potential to safely support about 15% of the children on the ‘edge of care’ who would otherwise be accommodated with foster parents or residential homes by local authorities.