Securing Change: what we’re learning
Towards the end of our 3-year pilot, after nine months of the pandemic, what are we learning?
All parents at our residential assessments know continued support is available when they leave, regardless of the outcome of their assessment. This offer is made by the project officer and backed up by the parent’s keyworker during their stay.
Once parents leave, the project officer contacts them to let them know free support is available. She may reach out to families who were resistant at the start. Parents may not be ready: either they do not believe they need any support or, as Sophie explains, they do not have the energy to look beyond the day to day.
I personally was just trying to get through each day and leave with Mia [her daughter]. I couldn’t think about the future; I couldn’t think about anything else. I would go to bed early so the days would go faster.
Some parents take months to get to the point where they can ask for help.
The 121 highly bespoke approach is, we believe, essential, as is the flexibility for parents to approach us in their own timeframe.
Since November 2019, we’ve worked begun or continued to work with 20 parents. Some needed highly specific, practical support – for example to help furnish a flat for a single parent and child. For others, the support continues over many months as parents navigate practical and emotional crises.
A seamless link between services
There are two routes to engage parents; an approach direct from the Securing Change practitioner or championed by a trusted keyworker. Parents often keep in touch with their keyworker after they have left an assessment.
A non-coercive approach
“Ann-Marie is not forced to see me and I am not forced to see her. It is my choice to work with Ann-Marie.”
We believe that our model of non-coercive gentle persistence is highly effective. We do not, for example, require participants to sign up to long-acting reversible contraception. Many of these mothers are the victims of abusive relationships, as children and adults. They have been coerced all their lives. We believe that giving them a choice is an essential part of the recovery process.
The Impact of Covid
During the pandemic, the project officer has been seeing families who have lost their children, although it has been hard to continue to meet them in the wider community. We’ve been forced to operate a reduced service at our residential assessment centres to ensure social distancing between residents and also for deep-cleaning between family stays, to protect families and staff. This has impacted on the potential number of parents coming through to the Securing Change project.
Covid-19 has meant that physical contact for Securing Change parents who do not live with their children has been non-existent. The pandemic has isolated a lot of families and the lack of services has not helped. This has understandably caused a lot of distress. We have put in place virtual video calls but it can be especially difficult for Securing Change parents because they want to see their babies or very young children.
Parents with learning difficulties
This project has highlighted the particular hardship of parents with learning difficulties. They may not understand why their children have been removed. It is very hard for them to hold information. They fall between adult services who do not consider their role as parents, and children’s services, who only see them as a risk to children.
There is a chasm in the support available which, we believe, needs a change at policy level, beyond the scope of this project but something we will share with others. Adult services need to take on parents with learning needs as parents and support them not only to look after themselves but their children too. Many could be parents with the right support, so they could keep the children they love and children could stay safely with the parents they love.
Showing financial and social impact
We have used the Social Value Bank’s Social Value Calculator to put a financial value against some outcomes – improved parenting skills, self-confidence and social networks, ability to sustain change, reductions in repeat care proceedings.
At this stage, the Calculator indicates that If we help one parent with or without their children across all of these areas, the social impact comes out at £103k per family.
We do not claim that our approach is solely responsible for change. It is part of a holistic and community approach and parents’ networks and individual resilience play a great part too.