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Nick and Sarah are two Frontline Fellows, and after spending years as social workers they decided to try an alternative way to support children and families. They joined Safe Families in 2020 (Sarah) and 2022 (Nick), a charity which is set up to support isolated and vulnerable families and help them to build support networks in their local communities. We had a conversation with them about Safe Families and how they use their skillset and knowledge as social workers to continue to support children, and families, outside of the profession.

Why does Safe Families exist?

As a social worker, you’re always looking to support children and families by helping them to build supportive and sustainable networks around them. We can take having friends and family around us for granted, those people that help get us through the difficult periods of life. In social work practice, you can really see the impact that isolation can have on peoples wellbeing and ability to engage with other support services. Building networks can lay the foundations needed for children and families to deal with the difficult situations that life can throw at anyone. This is where Safe Families comes in.

Coming from the sector we understand the limitations on statutory services in terms of budget and resources, and the constant challenge of time for social workers. For us, Safe Families is a way to help social workers think creatively about the families they work with and the community resources they can draw on to support the children they work with.

We look to create strong connections and lasting relationships with children and families to ensure they know they are not alone. This normally involves having someone to meet up with regularly for a walk or coffee and a chance to chat, who can be on the end of the phone on a tough day, as well as someone who can support with practical help such as DIY or gardening.

This is especially important because our communities aren’t like they were 30-40 years ago when people tended to know their neighbours. Now, some people will only know a handful of people in their area. We’ve seen this community isolation increase since the pandemic, with fewer people feeling comfortable interacting with people outside their close circles of friends and family. You can be in a city surrounded by people and feel completely alone, so we believe that social workers having access to a charity with volunteers embedded in these communities is vitally important when trying to help people build relationships and networks.

At Frontline, everyone who completes one of our programmes joins the Fellowship. The Fellowship brings together a community of social workers, from across England, to spark ideas, share knowledge and build expertise. Whether they are practising social workers or, like Nick and Sarah, are using alternative resources to support children and families, we believe that our fellows have enormous potential to create change for children and families in their community. Sarah and Nick demonstrate that change is achievable through collective action and in collaboration with other professionals. By working with over 50 local authorities across the UK, building real partnerships so that their knowledge of children and their family helps to shape their support.

To find out more about Safe Families and how they make a difference in isolated families’ lives, you can find their website here.