Home Work

“This is absolutely what Every Child Matters is all about.” This
was how the judges of the Community Care Awards summed up the
Lewisham vulnerable young children’s team, the winner of the
interagency category.

Set up in September 2003 in the south London borough, the team aims
to increase the social inclusion of children and families and to
work with schools to help reduce students’ emotional and
behavioural difficulties. It brings together School Home Support,
an organisation that specialises in working with children and
families at school, and Lewisham’s child and adolescent mental
health services (Camhs) under Lewisham’s behavioural education
support team, the lead agency.

“It was felt there was a gap in service provision to support
children and families and we saw that support could be directed to
where children mostly are – which is in school,” says Liz Bailey,
the behavioural education support team manager.

The project works with five primary schools, chosen because they
had received little external support. “We put a School Home Support
worker in each school,” explains Tracy Blackwell, School Home
Support’s London regional manager. “Each school also has a
designated line manager and a designated Camhs worker. Referrals
come from the line manager. We discuss who is best placed to
support that young person – this may be the home support worker or
it might be Camhs,” she says.

The range of problems is diverse and the project is structured to
enable quick and flexible response.

School Home Support workers make home visits, meet parents at
school, run group and one-to-one sessions for parents and carers.
The Camhs service in school means there is immediate access to
these services and support for families.

“If children are having punctuality or attendance problems it is
usually an indicator that something else is happening at home,”
Blackwell says.

This is the first time that Camhs workers have had direct access to
the schools.

Jo Mitchell-Dawson, one of the Camhs staff, emphasises the
advantages of being in school. “We can do an initial assessment of
the family and then provide tailored packages of support. We work
closely with the teachers so are able to look at the systems that
are being used to manage children and can suggest changes that can
help improve behaviour.”

The project has been able to build a relationship with children and
families or where necessary refer them to other services. In the
past year, the team has made 118 home visits and seen 844 pupils
and 301 families in school. As a result, there has been a marked
reduction in the levels of emotional behavioural difficulties
experienced by children.

Bailey believes one of the project’s strengths is that it does not
stigmatise: “Often people have a problem with the term mental
health,” she says. She believes it is important to deliver services
where families can reach them. “Families in crisis may not be able
to get across town to access the services they need.”

Blackwell says there are big benefits in having agencies working
together. “We are able to share experience and best practice.”

Winning the award has given the whole team a real boost. Blackwell
says: “It is all down to the hard work of the school home support
and the Camhs workers.”

The win was also welcome news for Martin Roberts, team manager for
Lewisham Camhs and Lewisham vulnerable young children’s team
operations manager. “It’s nice to be able to celebrate achievement
instead of focusing on problems,” he says,

Future plans include developing and improving the service, and the
award money will allow them to do some group work with parents –
something that had been on the backburner due to a lack of

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