Newcastle benefits from really high-quality services for children and families, committed and expert staff teams across the public and voluntary sector, strong working relationships across organisations, as well as good resources and community infrastructure.
“However, there are some outcomes for our city’s children that we all want to improve. Newcastle has higher rates of children who are subject to child protection plans and higher numbers of children in care than our comparator cities. Our children do less well in school as they get into the older year groups. Our infants go to A&E more often than national average. We also have higher rates of childhood obesity. We know that by working together as organisations we can tackle these challenges more effectively.”
Jane Melvin, Directorate Manager, Great North Children’s Hospital
Children and Families Newcastle is a project being driven by Collaborative Newcastle partners, working with schools, voluntary and community sector organisations and children, young people and families themselves. The aim is to make positive change and to redesign the support on offer so that it’s much more proactive, joined-up and tailored to families’ individual needs.
This work builds on the City’s current partnership approach, which includes the Community Family Hub and the work of Outreach and Family Support Teams. During Covid, these teams have worked creatively with families to provide ongoing support and engagement, including activity packs and online story times and breast-feeding support groups.
“The activity packs are absolutely brilliant. The music video has enabled us to have fun as a family and to try something completely new and different”.
The work of the team at the Community Family Hub is often tailored to a family’s specific requirements, such as the support offered to Helen, Brad and their three children. Jo from the Hub worked with Helen and Brad to provide and facilitate: support to manage the children’s behaviour, advice about money and benefits, help with accessing school uniform and regular counselling to help improve Helen’s mental wellbeing.
“First it was hard for me to speak to people and tell them I was struggling but everything I have brought to you and asked for help with you have tried your best. The school uniforms were a great weight lifted off my shoulders, and you being able to come with me to important meetings meant I could even get through the door, my anxiety was through the roof.”
Building on this tailored support and the great work already underway, Children and Families Newcastle have three big ideas for change, which are now being developed in consultation with partners, communities and families:
“Community Hubs with ‘magnets’ – we’re exploring how we can create places that people want to go and where they can access a wide range of practical and social activities in their community.
“Joined up services – we’re looking to create smoother, better joined up support – recognising that a family’s experience is as important as the support itself.”
“The Family Partner – we’dlike to establish a ‘go-to’ contact for children, young people and families. This would be someone who can work closely and consistently with a family to identify priorities, connect them to communities and, where necessary, help them to access support.”
Andy Graham, Children, Education and Skills, Newcastle City Council
Feedback from the current consultation work will inform a new model which the Collaborative Newcastle team will launch in Summer 2021.
* Action for Children, Barnardos and West Community Partnership (which includes Action for Children, Children North East, Riverside Community Health Project and HealthWorks) deliver services (commissioned by the council) in much of the City. The family quotes above have been provided by Action for Children.