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Councillors consider programme aimed at preventing Derbyshire children from being put into care

An innovative programme to support women at risk of repeatedly having their children taken into care with a tailor-made package of support is to be considered by Derbyshire County Council.

The ‘Pause Programme’ aims to break destructive cycles of behaviour and works with women who choose to take part in a radically different way addressing everyone in their lives including the fathers of their children, partners, family, friends and professionals.

It is aimed at helping to prevent the damaging and traumatic consequences for mother and child when children are taken into care and if approved would support 48 women over a four-year period.

The Pause Programme has been proven to work well in other authorities and the county council’s Cabinet will consider offering it to Derbyshire women at a meeting next week (Thursday 18 April).

Derbyshire County Council Cabinet Member for Young People Councillor Alex Dale said: “Children can be taken into care for any number of complex reasons but the consequences are always devastating and traumatic for them, their mothers and their families.

“This programme offers women intensive tailor-made support while working in small groups with skilled specialists to allow them to focus on their own needs – often for the first time in their lives.

“It also works in partnership with the NHS, housing, social work, the justice system and other agencies and is pioneering in the way it works not only with women at risk, but with their wider family and friends network too to ensure they feel as supported as possible through difficult times.

“We’ve seen the Pause Programme work well in a number of other authorities and, if approved by Cabinet, would also help the council reduce significant and ongoing budget pressures associated with children in care in line with our commitment to look at doing things differently to make the best use of our resources.”

The voluntary programme works with women who have experienced, or who are at risk of, repeated pregnancies by giving them the chance to ‘pause’ and receive the emotional, psychological, practical and behavioural support they need to break destructive cycles and take control of their lives. 

Issues triggering child care proceedings for mothers often include alcohol and substance misuse, domestic abuse, street sex work, mental health issues, criminal proceedings and learning disabilities and the programme would include support for women at risk with training and employment opportunities, fitness and other activities, counselling and support with drug and alcohol misuse.

A woman at risk of child care proceedings may be invited to take part in the voluntary programme by any organisation she is already being supported by including her GP or social worker.

As a requirement of taking part women agree to take an effective, long-acting, reversible form of contraception under the careful monitoring of sexual health services to allow them to focus on their own needs. 

In Derbyshire, 80 women had 262 children under the age of five taken into care during the five years up to March 2018. The highest number of children removed into care from one mother was eight.

The average cost for each child removed into care at birth in Derbyshire is £56,000 which includes initial fostering placement and adoption costs but not long-term ongoing costs.

If approved by Cabinet, the Pause Programme would help the council avoid an estimated £572,000 in care proceedings costs by supporting 48 women over a four-year period.

It would be funded by a payment by results model with all expenses met by the resulting cost avoidance. The council is currently investigating a range of options to develop this arrangement and would not be liable for any payments where the programme was not successful.

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