An independent review of Securing Change programme has highlighted its success and potential to grow. The study was carried out by The Centre for Abuse and Trauma Studies at Middlesex University.
The backdrop to this is the concerning rise in numbers of children in care, now 80,850. This is the highest level on record. We see high number of families coming to St Michael’s who have experienced multiple children being taken into care (recurrent care proceedings). We see Securing Change's work as a core part of our vision of keeping families together (if possible) and preventing more children from ending up in the care system.
Securing Change for parents
Securing Change is a service designed for parents leaving St Michael's residential assessment centres either with or without their children. Parents choose to sign up for 121 support to help them cope with life after the assessment, which includes helping them with managing grief and loss, housing, mental health, parenting and domestic violence and embedding positive change.
The majority of parents using the service did not get pregnant or end up back in court in the year following this support.
Many parents leaving assessments said they would have struggled with loneliness without the support. It also meant they had someone to call when things went wrong or were about to make a difficult decision or when they were struggling to cope.
One parent told them she had wanted another baby after losing her children, but "if it hadn't been for Securing Change, I'd have had one -I was already trying."
Securing Change should grow
The report concluded,
"Securing Change has done very valuable work in supporting parents who have undergone care proceedings and have had children recently or previously removed. The flexible and personalised care provided has supported them with their loss or their ongoing parenting and other needs. It filled a service gap and worked with a very disadvantaged client group. We would like to see it continue and grow."
The report points to the successful delivery of the programme under the difficult conditions of the covid pandemic. There is also high praise for project worker Ann-Marie for her dedication, professionalism and support.
The parents who worked with Securing Change said it improved their ability to cope with stress and supported their mental health and parenting. Securing Change was out in the community supporting parents as soon Lockdown lifted, and they found that they were the only professionals seeing parents face to face.
Combatting high levels of mistrust
The report said:
"Given high levels of service mistrust typically involved in these families, this is attributed to key positive characteristics of the Project Officer engaged and her personal interaction with them. The parents were largely referred from St Michael's own assessment centres, with one house, in particular, being responsible for most. The average length of engagement in the service was around 12 months. To date, one worker was able to sustain the caseload required."
The report also outlined several recommendations, which included:
An expansion of this valuable service
St Michaels needs to look at improvements to the sustainability and stability of the project. So far, it has been able to cope with one worker, but more staff and funding will help this project grow.
Collecting data and Longer-term data
To put in place systems to make collecting data easier to access and collect. These systems are essential for collecting information on longer-term impacts on parents and children.
Understanding the service boundaries and identity
It needs to be clear on what recognised models it's using to support parents and clearly outline boundaries between Securing Change, their residential service and social work input.
St Michaels Director Sue said,
"We are incredibly proud of Securing Change's work in these last few difficult years. A close working relationship between Securing Change and our residential assessment centres has shown us what a difference this can make for parents. We will be taking on board these recommendations and seeing how we can build on this great work whilst thanking Ann-Marie for her hard work and dedication."