Our experience, along with the evidence provided by our clients, indicates that most families feel the current system for treating addiction and domestic abuse is failing them and their children, for the following reasons:

  • They have too many different venues to attend and too many meetings.
  • Too many agencies with too many different agendas create confusion and frustration.
  • A lack of positive practical help available.
  • Lack of understanding of the complexities of addiction, meaning the family has a lack of understanding of what is expected of them.
  • A deep distrust of social care services due to previous experience or perceived experience.
  • Most families felt that, despite requesting help at an earlier stage, they were not helped until their situation became a crisis.
  • All of the above can lead to frustration, confusion, a feeling of powerlessness, a feeling of having no voice, and for some a feeling of being abandoned with no indication of what to do or how to do it in order to satisfy the local authority.

The demands on our service grow year on year, which not only suggests there is a clear need for such a service, but also that current provision is failing the most troubled families. Significantly, only six of the 188 families attending Iceni in 2016 had previously attended a family or Sure Start centre. This alone suggests that although services and resources may be available to families, many times they are unaware of these services, don‘t know how to access them or are afraid to access them for fear of their children being taken into care.

Deprivation and inequality in Suffolk goes beyond poverty and is compounded by geographic and social barriers. Suffolk is often viewed as a wealthy and affluent county and popular notions of poverty and deprivation normally focus on large inner cities. However, Ipswich is a town of major contrasts with pockets of significant deprivation and inequality within wards that are obscured when data is analysed in the traditional way.

The overall Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD) states that Ipswich has major problems with crime and disorder, drugs, prostitution, poor health, sub-standard housing, transport, income & employment deprivation, and concludes that two neighbourhoods in Ipswich are amongst the 20% worst off in England.

Further evidence of the “hidden” story of poverty and inequalities in Suffolk that clearly supports our belief that current approaches are failing our children include:

  • 5,500 children in Ipswich live in income deprivation (CHPR March 2016).
  • Less than half of five-year-olds have achieved a ‘good’ level of development – one of the poorest in the country. (CHPR March 2016)
  • 78,000 people in Suffolk live in income deprivation – 11% of the population, including 19,000 children. (Hidden Needs: Hidden Deprivation and Community Need in Suffolk, Cambridge University CHPR March 2011).
  • 28,000 children are living in difficult family situations and are at risk of social services intervention. (The Joint Strategic Needs Assessment for Suffolk 2015).
  • 68% of drug users in Suffolk are parents with only 17% living with at least one child (Monitoring Unit for Substances in the East, drug profile 2015).

The following research papers confirm our belief in our chosen approach:

  • International research (Geddes, Haw and Frank, 2010) suggests that the most successful child development interventions for families utilised a two-generation approach similar to Iceni (i.e. targeting both child and parent).
  • A ‘whole family’ approach must be adopted when providing support to those affected by alcohol or drug misuse. (Over the limit: the truth about families and alcohol, 2012).
  • In 2016, Iceni surveyed 49 social workers who referred families to Iceni. The 26 responses included comments such as “Iceni are best placed to intervene early and offer flexible and practical support which we cannot provide.” All 26 stated the needs of the families referred to us had been met.

We need to reduce the number of children being removed from their families and prevent children from becoming tomorrow’s problems by breaking the generational cycle of addiction and poverty. Affected children often go on to lead deeply troubled lives themselves. Research shows that they are at higher risk of addiction, poverty,  offending, homelessness, worklessness, suicide and early death (DoE: Turning around the lives of families with multiple problems, September 2012). Reducing the number of children being taken into care is our ultimate ambition.

Of particular concern Iceni is the increasing numbers of children being driven into care where addiction is a prime causal factor. With 700 children in care at the moment in Suffolk – and the cost of care averaging out at £78,000 per child – the economic arguments are inescapably supportive of our charity’s logic.

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