Partnership's work to support Sunderland children shared at international conference

Sharon Pearson, Operations Director at Priory Education and Childrens Services with the Alien allies.
Sharon Pearson, Operations Director at Priory Education and Childrens Services with the Alien allies.

A Sunderland partnership celebrated for paving the way to a better future for looked-after children is sharing its best practice at an international level.

The University of Sunderland, Together for Children working on behalf of Sunderland City Council to deliver children’s services in the city, and Priory Education and Children’s Services have been collaborating on a range of work.

Steph Hunter, Senior Lecturer at the University of Sunderland with the Alien allies.

Steph Hunter, Senior Lecturer at the University of Sunderland with the Alien allies.

Their initiative's aim is to ensure young people in the care system, awaiting a permanent home, and those in special education provision at Priory Hurworth House School are given the best possible support to deal with their diverse needs.

The partnership's work has received national praise, and members of the team were invited to return to the Association for Child and Adolescent Mental Health conference in Malta this month to make a presentation.

Stephanie Hunter, Senior Lecturer at the University of Sunderland, Carole Young, Senior Adoption Worker at Together for Children and Sharon Pearson, Operations Director for Priory Education and Children’s Services discussed a paper focusing on helping children with complex needs make successful transitions in their childhoods.

The partnership has worked to develop best practice on improving transitions for children with complex neurological conditions and adopted or children in care or special needs education provision.

Part of this led to the creation of sensory toys, named Alien Allies, to help children explain their emotional state and how it's possible to feel "alien" when you are experiencing change.

Stephanie has worked alongside the local crafting community. who have developed patterns and have been working successfully to knit the transitional toys.

Attendees at the conference included therapists, psychologists, academics, social workers and those who have a professional and personal interest in such work.

Carole Young, Senior Adoption Worker at Together for Children, said: “The opportunity to review practice at an international level has been inspirational.

"I am confident that learning will come from the knowledge transfer that will benefit children and young people in Sunderland.”

The conference also presented an opportunity for Maltese social work staff to engage and discuss their practice.

Dr Nigel Camilleri, consultant child and adolescent psychiatrist, founder and chair of the Association for Child and Adolescent Mental Health Malta branch, said they wished to raise the standard of provision of care through evidence-based practice and improve collaborative care.

He added: "One way of achieving this is by increasing staff number, reducing caseloads, and giving time to professionals to adequately discuss the cases of young people.”