A CHARITY which supports families in crisis is gearing up for an increase in referrals after a television documentary.
Safe Families for Children steps in to help Wearside parents by pulling together an army of largely church-based volunteers, supported by social work professionals, to offer a temporary place of safety for children.
The aim is to give parents time and space to resolve their issues, whether caused by ill health, housing problems, debt, domestic violence or drug abuse.
A BBC North East Inside Out documentary this week drew attention to the plight of the many vulnerable children in the North East whose parents are struggling to cope and the local authorities who do not have the resources to support them adequately.
After appearing on the show, Safe Families for Children, which also operates on Tyneside and in Middlesbrough, believes there will be an increase in people wanting to use its services.
Sir Peter Vardy, who founded the charity in the region after seeing the successful role of its sister organisation in Chicago, said: “I was happy that the BBC wanted to take a closer look at what Safe Families for Children is doing because I am 100 per cent confident that the work of the charity is transformational for the parents and the children receiving the help.”
Matt Wilson, chief executive of Safe Families, which has nearly 500 volunteers, said: “The programme really got to the heart of what we do and why it is so important. The interviews with our volunteer families and the parents and children who have benefited from their help, clearly demonstrated how this real, practical support can be the lifeline that’s needed at a critical time.”
The charity’s work also frees up professionals to focus on troubled situations and keeps more children out of the care system, potentially saving the taxpayer millions of pounds.
Matt said Safe Families has put in place plans to deal with an upsurge in demand from struggling families, offers of help from volunteers and questions from professionals working in the children’s social care sector.
He said: “We are prepared and ready to respond positively to anyone who gets in touch, whether that is churches that want to partner with us or professionals who recognise that we can support the good work they are already doing in our communities.
“To parents or other carers who are struggling to cope, the message is that our door is always open.
“They do not have to suffer alone – we are here to help.”
For more information, visit www.safefamiliesforchildren.com.