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
    resources.

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