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National award for city work with vulnerable children and families

An innovative Swansea Council service that improves the lives of vulnerable children and their families has won a prestigious national award.

guardian_award

An innovative Swansea Council service that improves the lives of vulnerable children and their families has won a prestigious national award.

The Team Around the Family in Schools (TIS) programme trains primary school staff across the city to tackle social challenges.

The result is fewer complex social cases, higher levels of school attendance and increased community resilience.

TIS won the Learning and Development category of the prestigious Guardian Public Service Awards 2017.

The Team Around the Family (TAF) was the only Welsh winner at an awards ceremony attended by TAF manager Sue Peraj, TAF coordinator Carol Ward and Gendros Primary School family liaison officer Karen Millis.

Council Cabinet member for Children, Education and Life Long Learning, Cllr Jen Raynor,said: "TIS is transforming children's lives.

"It's a radical, innovative and sustainable locally-driven initiative whereby council workers coach and develop primary school staff to recognise and tackle early-stage social challenges facing vulnerable pupils and their families."

Council Cabinet member for Health and Wellbeing, Cllr Mark Child, said: "Congratulations to all involved in contributing the service winning this prize - it's recognition from one of the UK's most prominent public sector awards schemes."

TAF manager Sue Peraj said: "We're buzzing from the win; the success is testament to the drive and professionalism of all who've become involved in this scheme as it has rolled out across Swansea.

"TIS boosts the professional development of council staff and school personnel, but also gives the community confidence that vulnerable families are receiving bespoke support from people they know and trust.

"As a result, schools now have many courageous conversations with families - and families now receive more of the right support from the right people in the right place and at the right time.

"Schools have been amazing. They have embraced TIS, going beyond what we expected by buying resources, releasing staff, running groups, hosting training sessions and giving valuable feedback with which we plan for future years."

TIS was launched in 2015, now covers 63 primary schools and is exploring how its principles can be extended to other age groups. To date it has supported more than 600 children and their families.

Karla Edgecombe, former family liaison officer at Gors Community Primary School, said: "It's a fantastic programme that helps bring about a massive improvement for families, the school and the community.

"Parents know that TIS is effective and they want to work with us. It allows a weight to be  lifted from the shoulders of school staff and gives the community reassurance that they are being heard."

One single parent - a mother of a schoolchild and a full-time carer for an autistic grandchild - said circumstances had left her emotionally distraught.

However, TIS helped her with issues around benefits, social services and employment; it helped secure respite care and other support.

She said: "TIS was my lifeline. Someone cared - and I feel very fortunate! I now have quality time with my son and know that my grandson is being cared for."

Headteachers say TIS is a creative solution to a tough problem.

One wrote: "I cannot speak more highly of the service in its aim to help others in times of crisis. Let's be honest, we all need a bit of help at some point in our lives ... TIS really has made a difference to our community."

The impact isn't just local - helped by the fact that it's believed to be the first initiative of its kind in Wales.

It's a source of pride to staff that TIS has been studied by other Swansea Council teams, other Welsh councils, the Welsh Government and by a university professor who specialises in children and young people getting the best start in life - and that it was given a national stage when they spoke at February 2017's Children In Wales Parenting Conference.


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