October 2020 update

Hampshire Healthy Families – Barnardo’s

I met on Zoom with Suzanne Shields, the Basingstoke lead for Barnardo’s Hampshire Healthy Families partnership with Southern Health Foundation. Suzanne opened the door on the vast range of initiatives which sit under this banner:                                                                               

Five To Thrive (a Parenting Approach) for parents/carers of babies aged between 6 weeks to 6 months; Baby Talk for parents/carers of babies aged from 9 months;  Toddler Talk for parents/carers who have a child around 2 years+ , HEART -Healthy Eating and Activity Resources for Toddlers, for parents/carers of children aged 2 and 3 years old;  School Readiness for parents/carers of children aged 3 years+.  All these workshops – now all transferred to be ‘on line’, form a foundation of care, all of which support families to thrive. More details here – https://www.hampshirehealthyfamilies.org.uk/     

Suzanne also highlighted NICCO – the National information Centre on Children of Offenders – which Barnardo’s delivers in partnership with HMPPS.  Suzanne is our local champion, making sure that the resources, services and research NICCO have created and gathered are well known and used. It is so good to be made aware of facts like approx. “310,000 children every year have a parent in prison in England and Wales, and 10,000 visits are made by children to our public prisons every week.”          


Barnardo’s is such a well know name or brand in the UK – but I suspect many of us do not realise quite how much diversification has happened since those founding years in the 1860’s when ‘ragged schools’ were first set up by Thomas John Barnardo to provide children with free, basic education, and shortly after the first ‘boys homes’ were set up –  examples of early intervention which holds true to today. A secure, loving home base and a good education are those very things which help protect a vulnerable child from being drawn towards those things which can, in the end, lead to prison.  From supporting families, to fostering and adoption, through supporting and protecting young people, and crucially, listening to the voices of those they serve, Barnardo’s remain rooted in the founder’s philosophy, that every child deserves the best possible start in life, whatever their back ground. I suspect Barnardo would be saddened to realise how very much his vision is still needed today. 



I visited Fledge in Eastleigh and met with Nerissa Dean, the Business Operations Manager – a rather functional sounding title for a woman clearly driven by compassion and long experience caring for vulnerable young people. Fledge use a number of local houses and individual flats where they provide supported housing to about 21 young adults aged 17 – 34. A wrap-around service is offered,  including mentoring, advocacy, life skills development and other 1-2-1 and group support. The hope is to help each person, whatever their challenges, whether substance additions, mental health challenges, or whatever has left them in need of supported living, gain independent living skills, employment, education or training.

This is intense, relational, dedicated work. For a relatively new and small charity, founded in 2014,  what I saw of Fledge make me think they were punching well about their weight and winning – in terms of remaining true to their founding vision which is encapsulted in these words from their website: “ Fledge believes we are all created to be loved. We attempt to be compassionate, open, committed and loving as we seek to walk with those we serve and facilitate growth through restorative hospitality.”

Trinity Winchester and Street Reach 

Chief Exec of Trinity Sue McKenna, with & Ben Martin, Project Lead for Street Reach 

Trinity Winchester is well known in the city, and across Hampshire, for good reason. I was welcomed to the Trinity premises by CE Sue Mckenna and Chair of Trustees Peter North.  Within their building they host Street Reach and also spaces for woman affected by domestic violence, Winchester Youth Counselling, Eating Disorder groups and much more. I am used to seeing Night Shelters and drop-in centres for the homeless – often generously accommodated in spaces used by others for worship, or other community activities. A purpose built ‘homebase’ which Trinity have developed is a model which begs to be replicated.  There is an understanding of the holistic care which is needed to address the many and often complex causes of homelessness. This care includes therapy, education, hot meals – and the opportunity to learn skills in the kitchen, advocacy, art and IT lessons etc.  A natural yet visionary extension of their ongoing work is to be realised next spring in the shape of their UnderOneRoof onsite accommodation comprising 12 flatlets. With wrap around help, comfortable shared space, therapy rooms, and set next to Winnall Nature Reserve with all the benefits the beauty of creation brings to mental health, Trinity’s staff and trustees are to be congratulated on their ongoing desire to see each person, however ‘destitute’ as having value and dignity as evidenced by this initiative. 

Street Reach grew out of the realisation that many of the people who use Trinity’s services effectively began their journey to homelessness whilst teenagers. In the light of that, the fact their offices are within Trinity’s building makes huge sense. I met with Ben Martin, Project Lead, and we shared our joint passion for early intervention. I left our meeting with copies of their 2019/20 newsletter. The contents starkly illustrate how things have changed this year – there were happy reports on camping at Fairthorne Manor, pictures of times together with workshops and pizza and so, in the light that and more I was  impressed to hear how the charity has been adapting to the Covid scenario. Because so much of the core effort is into detached youth work this continues to be at the centre of what Street Reach do – which enables meetings with young people who otherwise would not be seen or supported. Street Reach are also reaching a much broader group of people through the schools work with staff, students and parents. The picture I found building in my mind  was of years and years of face to face contact with vulnerable young people informing layers of wisdom and expertise, and that deep awareness that anyone working with these young men and women/boys and girls needs to be so well informed, so well suited to this work.

Hampshire’s Early Help Hubs. https://www.hants.gov.uk/socialcareandhealth/childrenandfamilies/familysupportservice/earlyhelp 

I was very privileged to be welcomed to one of the weekly gatherings of a Hampshire Regional Early Help Hub. As described on their website, their aim is  – “Identifying as early as possible if a child or family need support and helping them to access services, achieved with many support services working together to offer a child, young person or family ‘the right help at the right time’. 

The Early Help model is coordinated through eight multi-agency hubs: Basingstoke and Deane, East Hampshire, Eastleigh and Winchester, Fareham and Gosport, Hart and Rushmoor, Havant, New Forest, Test Valley.” 

I am a passionate advocate of multi-agency working, so it was an absolute joy to witness all the different participants in the hub. The image I tend to have in my mind when thinking of what structure of help is needed in any given situation of vulnerability, is of a safety net – and then asking questions, what are the crucial strands, what can be woven in to make the most strong and supportive weaving of strands possible – and then always looking for where are the gaps which families could fall through, what else might be included. Early Help Hubs and their Family Support Services are a great model for early intervention, their on the ground, consistent, hard work often overlooked whilst the more crisis based interventions receive, so often, negative media attention, e.g. well known cases like ‘Baby P’ or Victoria Climbie. 

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