A day in the life of a Family Support Practitioner

Debbie is an Early Help Family Support Practitioner based in Southend on Sea, and currently has a case load of 12 families, which is 45 people. She talks a bit about the role of a Family Support Practitioner, how they help families, and what a normal day looks like for her.

Providing support

Our work comes from a variety of sources, families can self-refer for support, professionals can refer using our referral form and families can be offered extended support following a child's social care intervention. The support we offer is voluntary so we need family members to consent to support and we need the family to have outstanding support needs that cannot be met elsewhere.

When a referral is received, we contact the family to discuss their needs and the information in the referral. Decide on a support pathway and allocate a practitioner. There are several different support routes.

1. Communication support. This can offer supported access to universal provision so this may mean we link families to other services, to help them complete forms to access benefits, school, GP etc.

2. Long and short term support for a family support practitioner. Many of the families we work with have complex needs so families will participate in a whole family assessment, following this will hold a planning meeting with the family and other professionals working with the family. This gives everyone a support plan to work from and lets us all know when things are better. We will then work with the family, holding regular reviews until the needs are met.

3. Strength based parenting. This is a programme that lasts 15 weeks and incorporates home visits and online sessions to provide parents with the tools and the insight to manage challenging behaviour as a result of trauma and or developmental issues.

4. Guidance and advice. Some families need very long term support, but not necessarily much of it. We do offer some families with long term needs support which may just involve a regular phone call to check in on them and answer any queries they may have or remind them of important things like applying for school places. This support is only given when we know that families do well when support is in place but that change doesn't last when there are no prompts.

A day in the life...

Debbie’s day starts at home at 8:30am. Since Covid-19 Debbie only goes in to the office when it is her duty week, which is next week. During duty week Debbie will be in the office between 9am and 5:30pm answering the phone, taking referrals and visiting new clients to establish their needs prior to allocation. Thank goodness this is not Debbie’s duty week as this is a very busy week which you can’t plan as you just don’t know what will happen.

She checks her email first thing to ensure she has no emergencies that need to be dealt with. There shouldn’t be any as most of the families Debbie works with may have challenging needs but they are working through these with Debbie’s support.

Debbie’s first appointment is at 9am. This is a family review meeting for a family she has been working with for some time. To limit the potential spread of Covid this meeting is being held on Microsoft teams. Debbie will contact the family at 8:55am to see if they need any help accessing the meeting as some families struggle with using technology. The meeting ends at 10:15am and was really positive. Both the children’s schools attended as well as the Domestic Abuse worker who has been supporting Mum. Everyone was really pleased with the progress made and agreed that our work will end. Debbie will update the case and plan, carry out a farewell visit to the children and her work will end.

Next on Debbie’s list is an unannounced visit to a family allocated to her two weeks ago. Debbie has been calling the family but there has been no answer. Therefore she will visit to check the family are OK and see if they still wish to access support. Debbie turns up at the address and it looks like someone is at home but they don’t answer the door. As a result of this visit Debbie will write to the family and request they contact her within 10 days if they wish to access support. She will also contact the person who referred to update them. If she doesn’t hear back she will close the case and let the referrer know so they can choose a different course of action if need be.

Debbie has and meeting at school with a 10 year old in a family she has been working with at 12pm. This is the child’s lunch time but they wanted to do sessions at lunch as they don’t enjoy the playground as they say they are bullied. Debbie has been working with this family for a little while and is not really happy at the progress made. Despite the family seeing Debbie regularly, the home environment is quite poor. Mum reports bed bugs and there is often old food and nappies left on the floor. Debbie has offered support around this and developed timetables with Mum on what to do when, and worked with her to declutter some of the rooms as they were a fire risk. Despite this support, little has changed and her child is being bullied in school as children can be unkind to other children when they smell, are not wearing the correct uniform and have frequent nits. Debbie is working with the child on anxiety and using some resources about worry. In this meeting the child informs that they didn’t have dinner the previous night and that her Mum smacked her hard when she had been drinking some beer. After meeting the child Debbie spoke to her manager as she was quite concerned about this family and also Mum to see what she thought about these reports. The decision was made that the family may need further support from Children’s Social Care, so Debbie will need to complete a form to transfer the case. Debbie reflected that it was a shame as most of the families we work with do well with our support but unfortunately, it just was not right for this family at this time and it was clear the child was being harmed by the situation. Debbie will need to arrange a handover visit with the social worker and then her involvement will end.

Next on her busy day would be a visit to a family where the 13 year old has additional needs and the parents (who are her grandparents) are really struggling with their own needs as well as the child’s needs. This will be carried out by a WhatsApp phone call as the grandparents are quite vulnerable and Debbie has no concerns about the home. Debbie talked to the grandparents about the up and coming meeting with Adult Social Care to see if they were able to put in some support to help the grandparents manage day to day tasks, including a wet room and stair lift (fingers crossed). She then spoke to the child about their day at school and the up and coming visit to go horse-riding – a special treat arranged as the child has gone back to school so well. Debbie has been working with this family for over a year and really needs to close the case but she will not do so until longer term support is in place and the 13 year old has her Education Health care plan.

Debbie realises it is 3pm and she has had no lunch. This is quite often the case in her work and she knows she should take a break… it just doesn’t always happen!

Debbie’s last visit of the day is to a Mum and her two children who have recently moved to Southend from a neighbouring borough. The family do not know anyone and the children will need to be registered for schools and nursery provision, GP located, benefits put in place and Mum and the children will probably need to access some support due to the domestic abuse the family experienced, prompting the move. This is a new case to Debbie and although she has started the assessment, she needs to see the children to ensure their views are captured and acted upon. Debbie will use a range of tools to help this conversation. Debbie has made Mum an appointment at the St Lukes Community hub for the following day as Mum will be able to access support for benefits, form filling in and advice of local community information at the centre, which will help Mum and the children to start feeling at home in Southend. Debbie will support Mum to attend this appointment as she is aware that Mum is not familiar with Southend at the moment. Debbie will use the information gathered to inform her assessment and then invite Mum and other professional’s to a meeting to agree support going forward. This was a good visit. The children were lovely and engaged really well and Mum is making a good home for herself.

After this visit Debbie will go home and update her case notes…until it starts again tomorrow.