Success of project supporting vulnerable West Sussex families

Samantha Crouch, Think Family initiative (photo submitted). SUS-160208-113209001

Samantha Crouch, Think Family initiative (photo submitted). SUS-160208-113209001

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Four out of five vulnerable West Sussex families receiving support from an early help service have seen a measurable improvement in their circumstances.

Think Family is a West Sussex County Council project which focuses on the family as a whole and provides support at the earliest opportunity.

Since September 2014 it has been working with more than 3,000 families across West Sussex and a recent review has shown that 82 per cent have seen a measurable positive change in their lives as a result.

West Sussex mum-of-three, Samantha Crouch, was suffering domestic abuse and was given support through a Think Family keyworker, Rosie,

Her youngest was struggling with confidence, her eldest was starting to skip school, and her daughter was taking on too much responsibility as she felt she needed to protect the whole family.

Samantha, who was also struggling with her own shyness, said: “Before I had Think Family I wouldn’t have spoken to anybody. I was so withdrawn and wouldn’t stand up for myself. Now I can speak to people all of the time and it has just given me confidence.

“I never knew how my children were really feeling until Rosie came in. Because they [the keyworkers] are not related, it was somebody from the outside. It made a difference.

“I wasn’t coping well with certain things with the kids and we got Think Family. Even the kids at school are getting better and better. Think Family helped me when I was really in need of someone to be there.”

Samantha says the whole family has benefitted from the support and she is hoping to go to college in September with the aim of being able to use her experience to help others in similar situations.

Think Family, which is supported by funding from the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), helps families where their needs are beyond routine or ‘universal’ services.

It currently has more than 50 key workers whose work ultimately reduces demand and the cost of late intervention. These key workers work alongside other specialists across West Sussex including school staff, physical and mental health specialists, the domestic violence resolution service, family support workers and the voluntary sector.

Analysis has shown that West Sussex residents get £6.26 of public value for every £1 spent. This is also equivalent to a total of £2.69 savings across the public sector based on information produced by the DCLG.

Stephen Hillier, WSCC’s cabinet member for children – start of life, said: “By focusing on the family rather than just mum, dad or one of the children, the team can provide better support and improve the way individual services work together. Their work can save a family from tipping over into crisis.

“By looking at preventative support, side-by-side with our partners, we can do more to reduce abuse and neglect. It will also help families to become stronger, independent and more resilient, whilst ensuring children are ready for school and adult life.”

Work is currently being carried out to explore new and progressive ideas and develop this forward thinking further with a commitment to deliver a safe, coherent and connected Prevention and Early Help service.

To find out more, search for Think Family on the county council’s website www.westsussex.gov.uk or email thinkfamily@westsussex.gov.uk

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