Local authority and charity partnership reaches new heights

The charity Safe Families for Children is seeing record high referrals from local authorities as their partnership to reduce the flow of children into care flourishes.

Accepting the very first referral in April 2013, and seeing 214 children benefit from the 101 referrals over the first year, Safe Families quickly grew, doubling those numbers by the end of the 2nd year. Seeing the potential in the innovative, early help approach to the community based solution to a community based problem, local authorities have increased referrals steadily, submitting a current average of 100 referrals each month to the children’s charity.

It is a timely partnership as nationally the number of looked after children in the UK has been increasing for the past five years, reaching 69,550 at the end of 2015, an increase of 6% on the 2011 figure. This has far-reaching social and financial implications both for vulnerable families and for the wider society.

Keith Danby, Chief Executive of Safe Families for Children, said: “Our local authority partnerships have really been flourishing and already we see the benefits to children and families who have been helped. We are keen to help as many vulnerable families as possible and as we scale up our capacity to accept referrals across the country we hope to increase our referrals to 200 a month by March 2017.”

Working with 20 local authorities across England to support vulnerable children and families, Safe Families for Children UK provides early intervention, helping address issues before they escalate and children need to be taken into care. Local authority partnerships continue to grow as a result, the most recent council to join in partnership being Southampton City Council, as Safe Families moves into the South Coast region this October.

Safe Families for Children has been partnering with Nottingham City Council for a year now and already the results are emerging. Councillor David Mellen, Portfolio Holder for Early Intervention and Early Years, said: “Every council in the country faces the same challenge – more children coming into care and reducing budgets to look after them.

“We’ve had a really positive relationship with Safe Families from day one, and it’s become an important part of our early intervention response. We estimate that around 10% of the children we refer to Safe Families would have otherwise ended up spending at least some time in our care. This makes savings, but the financial gains are far outweighed by the improved outcomes for our children and young people.”

Safe Families recruits and trains volunteers to three different roles: Host Families, who provide safe accommodation for children for up to two weeks; Family Friends, who offer mentoring support to parents struggling through difficult times and Resource Friends, who provide goods and services families might need.

In just three years, Safe Families has already supported nearly 2000 children with a network of more than 2700 volunteers nationwide. Safe Families’ people helping people approach links volunteers with struggling families allowing neighbourly volunteers to step in at the outset of any issues in families lives before they escalate and cause lasting, sometimes irreparable, damage.