Supporting women and helping to reduce the number of children in care

Work to support women who have repeatedly experienced having children removed from their care was highlighted at a recent event.

Somerset County Council highlighted the work of its practice ‘Pause Somerset’ at the Nelson Trust Women’s Centre in Bridgwater, as part of an event to celebrate the work of the women-only space where a wide range of support needs can be addressed in a safe and supportive environment.

Pause, a national charity set-up in 2013, provides an intense programme of support, which aims to give women the opportunity to reflect, tackle destructive patterns of behaviour, and to develop new skills and responses that can help them create a more positive future. In doing so, the aim is to prevent the damaging consequences of more children being taken into care.

An initial scoping exercise demonstrated the need for Pause in Somerset, identifying 83 women who between them had 226 children removed and taken into care. Women affected by repeat removals often face multiple and interlinking challenges and the most common concerns identified for this group were domestic abuse, drug and alcohol misuse and mental health issues.

Helen Emmings, Pause Somerset Practice Lead, said: “Over the last year within Pause Somerset, women who were at risk of homelessness have been more appropriately housed. Women who were struggling with their mental health have been able to access specialist support. Crucially, for some women, they have begun to explore their relationship with their children. This has included having constructive contact with Children’s Social Care to start approaching opportunities to enjoy being with their children and to contribute more positively to their children’s lives.

“We have seen incredible progress in some of the women during our first year and, despite the constraints of the pandemic, some have stabilised sufficiently to start employment. For others, the process of recovering from trauma may take longer but at least, through the launch of Pause in Somerset, they have had the opportunity to begin to take positive and decisive steps.”

Cllr Frances Nicholson, Lead Member for Children’s Services at Somerset County Council, said: “Pause Somerset gives women the chance to pause and take control of their lives, breaking a destructive cycle that causes trauma to all involved and reducing the number of children who need to be taken into care.

“I am heartened to learn of the positive impact that the programme is having on Somerset women and their children. This exciting programme sits squarely with the Council’s aim to improve lives and we look forward to seeing this programme go from strength to strength in the future.”

Pause Somerset helps women to find the time to focus on themselves. To do this, they agree to take the most effective form of reversible contraception during the intervention, thereby creating a space to pause, reflect, learn and aspire.

Somerset County Council started working with Pause in 2020 as part of the ‘Family Solutions Somerset’ approach launched within Children’s Social Care. As well as Pause, this includes the family safeguarding model, the Family Drug and Alcohol Court and the Safe Families scheme. This practice involves working together with the family around their strengths to motivate them to make positive changes.

This programme greatly benefits the women, the children and the local authority with reduced numbers of children being taken into care, and improves various outcomes including those around housing, health and criminal justice.

Pause also has the potential to save taxpayers millions of pounds a year. A national Department for Education evaluation of Pause practices showed that for every £1 invested in Pause, £4.50 is saved from the public purse over four years.

Here are quotes from three women helped by Pause Somerset:

“The relationship I have with my practitioner is different to any I’ve had before, she doesn’t feel like another professional it is more like being with a friend. The times I have been able to meet some of the other women on Pause it has been nice as I am with people who have had similar experiences of having children removed. Even if we don’t talk about it, I already feel comfortable knowing that we have that in common and they might be feeling the same as I do. It also gives me hope that if they can get to a good place then I can too. My practitioner is a credit to Pause and has moved mountains to help me. She is amazing.”

“My practitioner checks in with me regularly and has been supporting me to have better communication with Children’s Social Care and my children’s social worker. I have enjoyed being able to do different activities and it has been nice to meet some of the other women supported by Pause.”

“I feel really supported and my practitioner is there for me. She understands what has happened to me and I do not feel judged by her, which helps me to be totally open and honest with her. I look forward to the time I spend with my practitioner and she has helped me to feel better in myself and with her support I have been able to rebuild my confidence. I have difficulties with my mental health and my support network is out of county so I am often not at my home address and this sometimes makes it tricky for me to meet up with my practitioner. My practitioner is reliable and responds quickly when I contact her. I just want to say a big thank you to Pause for everything it has done for me.”

For more information about Family Solutions Somerset, visit: www.somerset.gov.uk/education-and-families/family-safeguarding

The Pause Somerset team, now made up of five staff, work intensively with women to build therapeutic relationships underpinned by trust and respect, supporting women to rebuild their lives, their self-esteem and develop their aspirations. There is currently a vacancy within the team. For more information and to apply by Sunday 14 November, click here: https://nelsontrust.com/jobs/pause-practitioner

ENDS

The Pause Somerset team.