Safe Families for Children will expand into the west of the county in a new initiative jointly funded by Cumbria County Council and The Big Lottery.
The charity works in partnership with local authorities, churches and community groups, offering early intervention support to vulnerable children and families with the aims of preventing child neglect and abuse, stabilising the family and reducing the flow of children into the care system.
Work to support families in West Cumbria (the Allerdale and Copeland areas) will start from 1st October, 2018. This multi-year funding partnership has been specifically designed to deliver better outcomes for children and families in an area of England which has experienced long-term, multi-generational challenges.
Safe Families’ CEO Keith Danby, who lives in north Cumbria, said: “I have been talking to Cumbria County Council, Church and Community Leaders and external funders about bring Safe Families for Children to Cumbria for almost 2 years.
“In the last few months all the pieces have come together with the Big Lottery in NE & Cumbria confirming multi-year funding for our community-based solution to what is a community-based problem. At its core, Safe Families is about ‘people helping people’. I am delighted we are launching in Cumbria”.
Currently there are 93,000 children in local authority care across the UK. Since launching in the UK in 2012, Safe Families, in partnership with local authorities, has reduced the flow of children into care by up to 16%.
This represents a huge saving for local authorities who are facing ongoing financial challenges. But more significantly it also means that many families across the UK have been stabilised, supported and strengthened, enabling them to stay together.
Cllr Anne Burns, Cabinet Member for Children and Families, said: “We’re really pleased that we have been able to support Safe Families for Children to start working in Cumbria. Their approach to working with families really chimes with our own and their track record in other parts of the country is very positive. As a rule the Local Authority does not want to get involved in the lives of children and families, but unfortunately sometimes it is necessary. The Safe Families for Children approach is all about providing support early to help families and avoid their needs escalating to a point where we have to step in. This is good for families and good for children and we are looking forward to seeing the impact of their work.”
The Safe Families’ model relies upon the good will of local volunteers who are recruited, trained and supported to safely assist families by providing short-stay respite hosting, befriending to children and parents and practical resources and DIY.
Safe Families founder and Chairman Sir Peter Vardy commented: “My vision has always been to mobilise volunteers across the country to support local families who need it. I am thrilled to see this now starting in Cumbria in this exciting new chapter in the Safe Families story.”
Safe Families is a Christian charity and they have received a particularly warm welcome from faith leaders in Cumbria.
The Bishop of Carlisle, the Rt Rev’d James Newcome, said: “’I’m delighted that Safe Families has secured the funding to start working in Cumbria. The need is great and it is my delight to welcome a Christian charity to help us support local families
“The Diocese of Carlisle’s senior leadership team has been aware of the work of Safe Families for some time and we know that some of our churches are already exploring how they can draw alongside this work.”
For Safe Families the most important voice is that of the families who are being supported. Gemma, a single mum-of-two, says that Safe Families support gave her the confidence to set and achieve goals.
“I suffer from anxiety and low self-esteem”, she explained, “and when support began my well-being score was very low. I used to think little of myself, that I couldn’t achieve goals.”
Within three months Gemma had gained so much confidence that she felt that she no longer needed to have support but could manage on her own.
She added: “I felt a lot happier by the end of the support. It’s improved my confidence and made me want to achieve a lot of things in life.”
Since the charity was founded in the UK in 2012, more than 6,000 children and 2,500 families have been supported through a network of nearly 4,000 volunteers.