Sunderland support service aims to keep families together

NEW SERVICE: At the launch of the Dispute Resolution Service are (from left) Keith Younghusband, chairman of Trustees; Jayne Welch, child support worker; Margaret Welch, family services manager; and Joan Heckels, trustee.
NEW SERVICE: At the launch of the Dispute Resolution Service are (from left) Keith Younghusband, chairman of Trustees; Jayne Welch, child support worker; Margaret Welch, family services manager; and Joan Heckels, trustee.
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COUPLES facing separation are getting support with a new service which focuses on “talk, not court”.

Families in the midst of a break-up can now turn to a team of experts to talk through issues with the First Steps project.

It aims to avoid the need to go to court, or to make the legal process easier if intervention is needed.

Each can speak to someone on their own, with agreements then made to help resolve problems.

Impact Family Service also offers children the chance to speak to someone about their feelings, with the parents then taken through their concerns.

The service was launched at the service’s Sunderland headquarters in West Sunniside yesterday as part of National Dispute Resolution Week.

City solicitors and other support organisations have been among those to back the new scheme. It will also run in Durham, as well as its other centres across the region.

Margaret Welch, family support manager and leader of First Steps, said: “It may be that we can offer some dispute resolution in place with separated and separating parents before they go to court.

“They may have something they need to get off their chest, and these times can be very fraught, but they can come in and use this service as a family.”

The charity, which charges a one-off fee – which is negotiable – for First Steps, also runs contact centres, giving parents who do not live with their child a safe place to spend time with them, a mediation service, support for the victims of domestic violence and help for perpetrators to change their behaviour.

For more information, email enquiries@impact.fs.co.uk or visit www.impactfs.co.uk.