Back in 2016, Kevin had been working as a Community Care Worker for 4 years and his partner Clare was employed by a restaurant in Whitley Bay. In the same month, they both lost their jobs through the companies they worked for being in financial difficulty.
Already experiencing relationship worries, they were both stretched to their emotional limits. Kevin’s partner unfortunately ended up suffering a mental breakdown. She left with the children but thankfully, after a short period of separation, they reunited.
After Clare walked out of an appointment, her doctor called the mental health nurse from North Tyneside Council’s crisis team. After refusing their help at first, Kevin convinced Clare they were there to help, and she was given tablets. Her breakdown had left her unable to leave the house alone.
In the months since losing their jobs, Kevin and Clare had fallen behind on their rent. Keeping the gas and electric on was a struggle, as was finding money to feed their children who were just 10 and 11 years old.
“I always thought it was mine and Clare’s fault for being in the situation we were in, but it was shown to us that thousands of families are in the same predicament through no fault of their own. Having spaghetti bolognese with Professor Green was surreal!” – Kevin
With the threat of 2 weeks in jail hanging over him for outstanding rent arrears at a previous property, the family’s stress was high.
“It wasn’t that I didn’t want to pay or refused – I just couldn’t.” – Kevin
“When the electric meter started beeping Lilly May would go round the house turning all the swtiches off. Anything that wasn’t being used. We couldn’t afford birthday presents for their friends’ parties… I felt guilty. I felt like we were letting the children down.” – Clare
After working with the crisis team for 2 months, Kevin and Clare were put in touch with us for further help. Lisa became the family’s worker and began advising them on how to improve their financial issues and helping with Clare’s mental health struggles.
“Without Lisa I wouldn’t be where I am now.” – Kevin
She recommended that Kevin took part in our ‘Be Your Best’ volunteering course, and that there would likely be a job at the end of it. Once he completed the course, Kevin started volunteering with us on a regular basis.
Kevin is now employed with us as a Family Entrepreneur on the Henry Smith project, Looked After Care. He works closely with other FEs to help keep families together, ensuring less children are taken into the care system.
Since January last year, Kevin has helped an incredible 5 families stay together without the need for social worker intervention or court proceedings.
“I like helping people, that’s what I’ve done since I left school. It’s all I’ve known and all I wanted to do.” – Kevin
There are a number of reasons we see families with children being taken away – the parent themselves may have experienced care as a child, mental health issues, parent drug and alcohol addictions, poor home conditions, or poor attendance at school.
This programme, funded for 3 years by the Henry Smith charity, was developed as a result of our concern about the number of children placed on plans that put them on a trajectory for Looked After Care, and where the parents of the children needed intense support to address the underlying causes and issues.
Our trained Family Entrepreneurs like Kevin take referrals for families where the children are already on a Child in Need or Child Protection Plan, and work with the whole family to understand the issues that are putting the child at risk.
Often families do not understand, or have the capacity to address, the things that they need to do to satisfy professionals that they can support their children. We take time to work through each issue on a practical, emotional and empowering level so that they can improve and sustain their situation.
To date, 83% of the children referred to us where we have completed our intervention have been removed from their plan and the parents now have confidence in their parenting.
At a cost of around £30,000 – £40,000 per child per annum to be placed in Looked After Care, we estimate that we’ve saved North and South Tyneside Local Authorities around £500,000 so far. With many cases still expected to be successful over the next year, we expect this number to grow as the project progresses!