Families in Sunderland who are facing difficulties can get more support after the City Council confirmed its commitment to a pioneering initiative that is helping keep children out of care.
Safe Families for Children (SFFC), a charity established by Sir Peter Vardy, has been working with children’s services in the city for two years.
In that time, volunteers have helped families who are struggling to cope, offering a haven for children while parents tackle a host of challenges.
So far, 326 families and 752 children have been helped in the North East pilot.
The charity has proved so successful and demonstrated the potential to save local authorities millions of pounds in care costs that it is now expanding across the UK.
Sunderland has followed Gateshead and Darlington in committing for the next three years by signing a public social partnership service agreement with SFFC.
Sir Peter, who has invested £2m from the Vardy Foundation in the programme, said: “A well-functioning society starts with the family, but often parents find themselves overwhelmed.
“We know what the challenges are and we know there are people out there who want to help, but don’t know how. Safe Families brings the two together.
“It is a first port of call, providing early intervention and simple acts of kindness that make all the difference in stopping problems escalating.”
Coun Pat Smith, portfolio holder for children’s services at Sunderland City Council, said: “We know that many families are struggling to cope in these challenging times.
“It is important that they are able to access support in their community in an early stage.
“Interventions like that provided through Safer Families for Children can make a very real and positive difference to the lives of children.
“The early support they offer helps families to overcome the difficulties they face and enables them to remain together.
“We see Safer Families as a valuable and very welcome addition to the early intervention we already provide.”
The initiative has attracted interest from Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Iain Duncan Smith, who approved £2m to allow SFFC to expand its service and its public social partnerships to other parts of the country.