Early Success For Seen Heard Believed Project

A cutting-edge project that delivers trauma-informed early interventions to vulnerable and struggling families in Middlesbrough has secured further funding following a successful 12-month pilot project.

Initially funded by the Lieutenant Colonel Cohen Charitable Trust, The Seen, Heard, Believed (SHB) Project has helped 123 family members including children, young people and their parents since it was launched in June last year (2020).

As a result, KMPG Foundations and Frontline Changing Lives have pledged their funding towards the project for potentially up to four years alongside the Cohen Trust, providing much needed help to more families across the town.

The SHB Project, which is delivered as a partnership between Safer Communities and Middlesbrough Council, provides an innovative Trauma Informed Practice (TIP) approach to vulnerable families for as long as is needed.

TIP is grounded in understanding and responding to the impact of trauma; it emphasises physical, psychological, and emotional safety for everyone, to create opportunities for those affected to rebuild a sense of control and empowerment in their own lives.

The success of the project is also due to the independent nature of the practitioners from the voluntary sector.

“This is a project with a difference that’s making a real difference because it happens early on and takes into account how trauma affects the whole family,” said Lesley Makin, director of operations at Safer Communities.

“For example, if a woman has suffered trauma in her own life – maybe she’s been the victim of sexual abuse or domestic violence or suffered with addiction – or she may have endured all of those things together – that can have a hugely negative impact on her ability to parent successfully.

“This project addresses those issues early on before things spiral further and it works to help families to really understand what drives their problems, how that impacts on each other, and to feel able to tackle ‘what happened to them’ and move forward,” she said.

“The absence of time constraints that other services are often restricted by makes a huge difference also and the fact that SHB practitioners are independent of any other statutory professionals.  “This means our work is not so driven by caseload demand and they have the time and flexibility to build safe trusting relationships with the families – this is crucial to the process of enabling families to learn how to shape what they want and need, to be able to take responsibility and make changes, cope and recover.”

The project is made up of partnerships with Middlesbrough Council, including South Tees Public Health Project, ADDER (Addiction, Diversion, Disruption, Enforcement and Recovery). The Office of Police and Crime commissioner (OPCC) has invested in the initiative further.

Figures from the Early Intervention Foundation show nearly £17 billion per year – equivalent to £287 per person – is spent in England and Wales by the state on the cost of late intervention. The cost due to domestic violence has risen, while the cost due to young people who are not in employment, education or training has fallen.

Aside from the cost to the state, late intervention has an immeasurable cost to families’ emotional, social and physical wellbeing with life-long consequences.

The SHB Project sits within Middlesbrough Borough Council’s Stronger Families, Early Help Teams but remains independent and delivers a range of longer-lasting interventions with children, young people and families referred via the Multi-Agency Children’s Hub (MACH) and Frontline Changing Lives.

Longer-term help means that whilst a case may close for intensive support, practitioners will be expected to ‘check-in’ with families to ensure the intervention remains a success and provide booster sessions if needed.

Wendy Shepherd, a trustee of the Lieutenant Colonel Cohen Charitable Trust, has long supported the idea that early intervention in a trauma informed manner is the key to successfully engaging and working with families to promote and sustain change: “I and the Cohen Trust are delighted to be working in partnership with Safer communities, KPMG and Middlesbrough Borough Council in promoting and establishing trauma informed practise as a way forward in supporting families.”



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