Question mark over whether service that supports vulnerable mothers in St Helens will continue

Current funding for the programme ends in October
Current funding for the programme ends in October

A service that supports vulnerable mums in St Helens could save the local authority millions of pounds in the long-term, a council meeting has heard.

Pause works with women who have experienced or are at risk of repeated pregnancies that result in children being removed from their care.

Pause aims to break this cycle by giving women the chance to pause, learn and aspire to take control of their lives.

It also seeks to prevent the damaging consequences of countless more children being taken into care each year.

Pause St Helens is the first Pause Practice to be delivered in Merseyside and is a partnership arrangement between St Helens Council and the charity Pause.

The programme started as a pilot in St Helens, in October 2017, and costs £470,587 for the 18-month period.

Further funding has been provided by St Helens Council to deliver the programme with a second cohort of women.

However, the current funding arrangement is only up until October.

Kelly Cox, the Pause practice lead for St Helens, shared some of the service’s impacts with a range of agencies at the last meeting of the People’s Board, in part to gain support for funding to continue the service.

Currently, Pause is working with 23 women and is also supporting 14 women who have successfully graduated from the programme.

Between them, they have had more then 100 children removed from their care.

While there is a significant financial cost to running each course, Ms Cox said it is projected that Pause will end up saving the council millions in the long-term.

Ms Cox said: “The projection is, over a five-year period, we will be avoiding costs to the local authority alone of over £1m. Obviously that’s just he financial savings and costs.

“But for the women's lives and the children's lives, there’s a human saving and there’s costs to not having a Pause programme come October 2020.”

One woman, named only as Kylie, is currently six months into the Pause programme.

Kylie, which is not her real name, has three children aged 3, 2 and 1, all of whom have been removed from her care.

Ms Cox said Kylie suffered a range of adverse childhood experiences as well as a range of complex traumas as an adult, including domestic abuse.

She said Kylie also suffers from ongoing relationship-based traumas linked to her family as a result of sexual abuse as a child and has attempted to take her life on numerous occasions.

Ms Cox said being on the programme has helped Kylie reflect on her past actions and is now recognising the pattern of the repeat removals of children in her life.

She said Pause has also helped Kylie avoid eviction, find more stable accommodation and review her finances.

The work has also opened the door for other services that have previously struggled to engage with Kylie to now support her.

Ms Cox told the board that Kylie’s case has been costed and revealed that St Helens Council has spent approximately £272k on her family alone.

Ms Cox said: “By intervening when Kylie has no children in her care, to work intensively with her for 18 months, we estimate that we will avoid further costs, again just for the local authority alone, of over £94k.

“Which is quite stark really when this is just one woman of potentially 30, 40 women that we’re now working with or have worked with.”

Ms Cox told the board that it was looking for guidance on what it does leading up to October, when the current funding arrangement ends.

Labour’s Nova Charlton, St Helens Council cabinet member for protecting young people, said the programme was something that the People’s Board simply need to continue.

Coun Charlton said: “The outcomes and the impacts speak for themselves. We look at budget savings and that is something that we need to consider but really, it’s the human impacts and what this does for children in our borough and the women that are involved.

“So, my question is to the board, how are we going to ensure that this goes forward?”

Coun Charlton’s comments were echoed by fellow Labour councillor Marlene Quinn, cabinet member for adult social care.

“Sadly, all budgets are under pressure, but this is a scheme that benefits all of our public services, everyone,” Coun Quinn said.

“Not only that, the benefit to our communities and the personal benefit to those ladies.

“We can’t question it, and I would urge our executive board of the People’s Board to sit down, look at the full impact and the deliverance to come from this and really find that money for after October.”

Professor Sarah O’Brien, strategic director of People’s Services and clinical accountable officer for St Helens CCG, said the executive team will look at how it can “be creative” with its resources to allow the service to continue.