Families First News

The latest news

Action & Impact meeting review now published

A big thank you to all Families First staff and partners who took the time to complete the Action & Impact (A&I) review survey. When Anne-Marie Thornburn (Independent chair & partnership manager) left Hertfordhsire, a decision was made as part of the handover and transition to do a full A&I review, including attendance and presenting needs review. The report contains recommendations for the A&I meetings moving forward to ensure continued consistency.

Anne-Marie would like to thank everyone who has shown commitment to the A&I meetings and supported their ongoing development!

Turning Point and Herts Mind Network

NightLight -Hertfordshire Crisis Service

Our centers provide a safe, homely and welcoming space for people in Hertfordshire who are feeling distressed and who are experiencing a crisis.

We are open out of hours on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday nights from 6pm-2am, every week of the year. Turning Point and Herts Mind Network work together in partnership to provide this service.

We also provide a telephone helpline. This is open from 8pm-midnight on the same days and is run by a team of Crisis Support Workers and Peer Mentors. We also have 4 bases around the county and will do our best to ensure that you can access the one that is nearest to you.

NightlightThe centers are based in:


               Hemel Hempstead (2 beds)

               Stevenage (2 bed)


The centers offer a safe haven for you to use if you are in crisis and want some ‘time out’ or would like to talk through the issues that you are experiencing with someone who will listen, but not make judgements.

What support can we provide?

Each Centre is staffed by a team of Crisis Recovery Workers, Peer Mentors and Volunteers who will work alongside you to support you during your stay

We won’t make assumptions or judgements about what will work best for you, but will provide you with choices about how you would like to use your time in the center, such as:

  • A safe space in a welcoming environment at one of our centres
  • Time and space to talk with staff and peers
  • 1:1 staff support (practical and emotional)
  • Support with crisis resolution and building coping strategies
  • Advice and information
  • Signposting
  • Onward referrals
  • Emotional support through our telephone helpline between 8pm-midnight

Where appropriate we can support you with accessing other services and/ or resources that may be helpful to you in relation to longer term support needs. We can work alongside you to look at options if you identify that this would be useful.

How it works

To make a referral, all you need to do is call the service between 6-7pm on the nights that we are open and talk to a member of the team. You can also be referred to the service by a professional, family, carer or friend. From there, we will explain the process to you so that you understand how the centres work and what we can offer.

You will either be offered a place at one of the centres, or if we do not have enough spaces to offer to everyone who has called, we will arrange a planned call from our telephone helpline later in the evening.

The centres are open until 2am and you can stay for all or part of the evening, whatever you feel that you need. Two of our centres do have emergency overnight accommodation that can be discussed with the team.

If you have not used the service before we will always try and ensure that you are invited in to a center.

If you don’t want to come in to one of our centres, but would like to talk to someone on the phone, then you can call our telephone helpline at any time between 8pm- midnight.

Overnight stays

Our Hemel Hempstead and Stevenage bases each have 2 bed spaces that can be used if you feel that an overnight stay would help you to resolve your crisis. In some circumstances overnight stays will be discussed and agreed with the Crisis Assessment and Treatment Team.

We will work alongside you to develop a personalized Crisis and Exit Plan to ensure that you are supported to leave the service safely with the right support in place. This will include an assessment of your ongoing needs and appropriate onward referral and signposting to ensure that these can be met.

All overnight stays will end at 9am in the morning

Contact us

Please call us on 01923 256391 to find out more about how we can support you or to make a referral to the service

Launch of new Domestic Abuse Services in Hertsmere

Please see the attached flyer advertising the launch of Hertsmere’s new domestic abuse services which will be in place from 1 October 2017.

Please come along to find out more about the new specialist services which will be offered by St Albans and Hertsmere Women’s Refuge, of which include:

  • Safe accommodation across Hertfordshire
  • Support with housing matters
  • Support with money issues
  • Employability support
  • Mental and physical health support
  • Emotional wellbeing support
  • Support with children and parenting
  • Support for victims with learning disabilities, older victims, LGBT victims, male victims, BMER victims and those with substance misuse and mental health problems

This launch event is aimed specifically at all front line staff working in Hertsmere particularly: health visitors, voluntary organisations, children’s centres, GPs, police, midwives, social services, housing organisations and schools.

If you/your colleagues would like to attend the launch event, please RSVP to partnership.support@hertsmere.gov.uk

Please circulate this invitation to your networks.

Couple counselling and mediation now available for parents across Hertfordshire

Following a successful trial of couple counselling and mediation for parents in conflict, these services will now be available for parents across the whole county.

From September 2017 you can refer parents in conflict directly to free mediation and counselling services and without the need for them to have a Families First Assessment in place. This allows parents to get help with their relationships earlier.

Mediation and counselling can help parents experiencing difficulties in their relationship, whether they are together or apart. We’ve had some very positive feedback from parents who have been helped by these services already, so if you know of any parents in this situation, please do consider whether this might help them too.

See here for how to refer and more details on what mediation and counselling can offer parents. You may also want to look at the online toolkit for supporting parents in conflict in Hertfordshire, and more information on the Better Relationships, Better Parenting programme is here.

If you are a practitioner keen to promote the value of supporting parents in conflict why not join our Better Relationships Ambassadors network? Our ambassadors are enthusiastic about supporting local colleagues and peers and interested in raising the profile locally of the importance of healthy relationships. Our ambassadors also get priority access to additional training. For more information on becoming an ambassador please email FSC_team@hertfordshire.gov.uk.

The Big Lottery Fund European Social Fund (ESF)

The Big Lottery Fund and ESF have granted Hertfordshire County Council £5.5 million to help boost skills for residents. The project is part of the ‘Building Better Opportunities’ programme funded jointly by The Big Lottery with match funding from the European Social Fund. It aims to tackle the root causes of poverty and unemployment, such as physical and mental health issues, homelessness, addiction and much more.

It brings together public and voluntary organisations to create one of the biggest partnerships in the county. The three strands of the programme are STRIVE in Hertfordshire (Barriers to Employment); MILE in Hertfordshire (Financial Confidence) and Youth Futures (Young People). All those taking part will receive intensive one-to-one support to understand and address their barriers to learning and employment. They will be offered skills to help them secure work experience placements, volunteering opportunities or apprenticeships.

The aim is to engage those with complex barriers to employment and support them into sustained employment, volunteering or education. The project will be running engagement activities as well as working 1to1 with participants.


For more information please contact:

Phone: 01992 556183

Email: BBO@hertfordshire.gov.uk

Autism Friendly libraries

Research, conducted by social care organisation Dimensions, showed that whilst people with autism are already more likely than other people to use a library, a few changes could lead to 92% increasing their use of their local library if some autism friendly adjustments were made. With this in mind, Hertfordshire Libraries are taking part in a national initiative to make their libraries more autistic friendly and to raise staff awareness of Autism-friendly approaches which will make a huge difference to children, young people and their families.

As part of this initiative, from September to the end of October, we are piloting a Visual story, a simple guide to the library and its rules at some our larger libraries for people with autism and other learning difficulties to help them more easily find their way around. If you are interested in finding out more about which libraries are involved and giving us your feedback, please contact Terri Moss, Librarian, Service Development and Projects via libraries.Information@hertfordshire.gov.uk

Couple Counselling and mediation now available for parents across Hertfordshire


Herts Practical Parenting Programme Pilot

Following a needs analysis completed in 2016/17 from professionals who refer families to parenting courses, a gap was identified for practical parenting support. To address this, the Family Services Commissioning Team has commissioned Herts Practical Parenting to develop and pilot a new group based practical parenting programme. The outcomes of the pilots will be evaluated and used to inform future commissioning of targeted parenting support.

The pilot will be running in Stevenage in the autumn term for families with teenagers.

The programme will cover:

  • assertiveness for parents
  • communication skills
  • aspects of child-parent violence
  • understand the different parenting styles
  • practical skill to handle conflict
  • practical skills addressing behaviours issues.

This programme is aimed at:

  • anyone with a parenting responsibility
  • families in need of practical parenting support
  • parents finding it hard to nurture and bond with children and young people
  • parents with a lack of boundaries at home
  • families with a communication breakdown
  • parents that are inconsistent with consequences.


Venue: Bowes Lyon Centre, St Georges Way, Stevenage

Dates: Starting Thursday 7 September, running over seven weeks

Times: 9.45am to 12.15pm

Course aimed at: Families with teenagers

Referral form


Lifelong Links - building lifelong support networks for children and young people in care

Lifelong Links is a new project being offered to children & young people in care in Hertfordshire, that hopes to find and safely connect them to their family members and other known adults, such as former foster carers and teachers.

This innovative approach aims to identify and engage relatives and other supportive adults connected to a child in care, who are willing to make a lifelong commitment to that child. Research shows that the continuity and permanence of these familial relationships will offer the child ongoing emotional and practical support, help provide an explanation of historical events, and reinforce the child's identity and sense of belonging. 

The Lifelong Links model includes tools and techniques for family group conference (FGC) professionals to use to search for and find family members (known or unknown to the child) and other adults who care about the child. This network is then brought together in a family group conference to make a lifelong support plan with, and for, the young person. The Lifelong Links plan is integrated into the child's care plan and social workers work with the young person and their support network during the young person's time in care and during their transition to independence and into adulthood. 

Lifelong Links will be offered to children and young people under 16, who have been in care for less than three years, where there is no plan for them to live within their family or to be adopted. If you would like more information on Lifelong Links or you know of a young person who you think may be interested and meets the above criteria, please contact Ben Carr (ben.carr@hertfordshire.gov.uk) on 01992 588346.

Changes to Universal Credit

Hertfordshire jobcentres will go onto the ‘full service’ of universal credit on the following dates:

  • 1 November 2017 - St Albans and Waltham Cross Jobcentre Plus (JCP)
  • 6 December 2017 - Watford and Hatfield JCPs
  • 13 June 2018 - Hertford, Letchworth and Stevenage JCPs
  • 12 September 2018 - Hemel Hempstead and Borehamwood JCPs

To check precise postcodes, go to http://ucpostcode.entitledto.co.uk/ucdate

From these dates onwards the ‘legacy benefits’ i.e. income support, income-based jobseeker’s allowance, income-related employment and support allowance, housing benefit and tax credits will be abolished for new claims and replaced by universal credit (UC). For example, a lone parent making an initial claim will no longer be able to make a claim for income support and tax credits; someone moving out of the family home to somewhere that charges rent won’t be able to get housing benefit. In both situations, UC would be the only option.

UC is paid monthly in arrears, and generally includes payment of the rent to the tenant, not the landlord. Benefit rates are broadly comparable to legacy benefits but some of the rules are very different. There are special rules for care-leavers and young people with housing costs for example.

What does this mean for you and your service users?

There will be no immediate change for many CS clients who are currently receiving the legacy benefits. They will move on to UC from 2019 onwards. But CS clients who have a relevant change of circumstances will move to UC when that change occurs.

Examples include:

  • A client on income support has to begin looking for work because their child reaches 5
  • A client on JSA or income support has their first child
  • A client on housing benefit moves to new rented accommodation in a ‘full service’ area

The only exceptions to this are those claiming UC for the first time with three or more children. They will be directed to claim legacy benefits until at least 1 November 2018.

The fact that a Job Centre goes ‘full service’ doesn’t in itself mean a switch to UC.

For more information on universal credit

The MAU universal credit factsheet is at www.hertfordshire.gov.uk/benefits. If you have service users affected by UC, you may want to consider attending the Money Advice Unit’s UC training courses.

Learning & development

Effective Assessment training

Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) training

Safeguarding Adults & Children's Housing Conference

Safeguarding Adults & Children\'s Housing Conference

Domestic Violence Public Health Master Class

Parent Conflict Resolution Workshops

Parent Conflect Resolutions workshops

New antenatal course for families requiring additional support

Following a needs analysis completed in 2016/17 a gap was identified in antenatal provision for families requiring additional support. To address this, the Family Services Commissioning Team has commissioned Families Feeling Safe to run two pilots Right from the Start. This is an antenatal programme based on the principles of Protective Behaviours. The outcomes of the pilots will be evaluated and used to inform future commissioning of targeted parenting support.

Right from the Start focuses on the importance of healthy relationships, communication and how outside influences affect the internal world and development of the unborn baby.

Pilot locations

The pilots will run in autumn running for two hours a week over six weeks (please note there is a week’s break for half term).



Venue: Hemel Hempstead Library

Time: 9 - 11am

Dates: Tuesday 3, 10, 17, 31 October and 7, 14 November

Welwyn Hatfield

Venue: Creswick Children’s Centre

Time: 6.30 - 8.30pm

Dates: Thursday 5, 12, 19 October and 2, 9, 16 November

Programme content:

  • healthy relationships
  • roles and responsibility
  • communication
  • the link between feelings, thoughts and behaviour
  • how talking can help to build relationships
  • use practical strategies for you and your family. 

Target group

The programme is aimed at families where there is potentially or identified domestic abuse. These families may have:

  • an Unborn Baby Plan
  • Child in Need
  • Child Protection Plan
  • Families First Assessment.

It is encouraged, but not expected, that both parents attend the sessions.


Please send the completed referral form securely to vicky@familiesfeelingsafe.co.uk or mary@familiesfeelingsafe.co.uk using HertsFX.

If you do not have a HertsFX account, contact FSC.Team@hertfordshire.gov.uk for assistance – do not send personal data using an unencrypted email system.

Please feel free to circulate this information to your teams and other colleagues or send any questions to Apolline.Festraets@hertfordshire.gov.uk

For a list of all current parenting programmes please visit the parenting directory www.hertfordshire.gov.uk/parentingsupport or visit the Families First Portal where a range of support is available www.hertfordshire.gov.uk/familiesfirst



HSBC Conference 14 October 2017

Difference we're making

Michelle's journey

This good News story has been shared by Jane Moules, Troubled Families Employment Advisor:

Michelle was referred to me by her Family Intervention Worker in November 2016. She had been claiming Employment Support Allowance for anxiety and depression and was on anti-depressants prescribed by her GP. Michelle failed to attend our first meeting booked in at the Jobcentre so I arranged a joint home visit with her FIW in January 2017. At this visit I discovered that Michelle had not worked for about 8 years and did not have a CV. She was also subject to the benefit cap which meant that she was in arrears with her rent and was at threat of eviction. She was interested in working with children or with the elderly in a residential care setting. We discussed the implications of working in care, the long shifts, the fact that Michelle would need training and the need for childcare for her 2 youngest daughters. Michelle was adamant that this was what she wanted to do so I contacted a residential care home in Hatfield near to where Michelle lived and asked about their recruiting procedures. I had previously worked with BUPA care and knew that they trained their own care assistants. The manager sent me an application form and Michelle met me in the jobcentre where we completed the form together. After completing the form I contacted the manager of the home to arrange an interview for Michelle. Michelle was extremely nervous, but I went through some interview questions beforehand which helped enormously. I sat in on the interview where Michelle did very well and managed to answer all of the questions she was asked. The Manager offered Michelle the job on the spot and explained that she would have to apply for her DBS check on line and that they would arrange a training course for her. After about 3 weeks Michelle was sent on a training course in Watford, which she was clearly anxious about attending. However, the company provided a taxi for the 4 day course, and Michelle attended every day. Finally, after another 3 weeks, on March 17th 2017 Michelle started work 22 hours (2 days) a week, and she is sill there now. I still have regular contact with Michelle, just to ensure her that everything is going ok. I have noticed that Michelle has become more confident since she started work and is proud to be a good role model for her daughters.

A good news release from Home-Start Watford and Three Rivers

...I am pleased to share some fabulous news with you all...

Many of you will be aware of the challenges we have faced over the last three years with significant loss of funding and the loss of both shop and office premises.This time last year, although you would never hear me say it, the future of Home-Start Watford and Three Rivers was in jeopardy!

However, the hard work from staff, Trustees and all our volunteers along with their commitment, enthusiasm and knowledge that this unique service makes a real difference to local families has finally paid off.

I am so pleased to tell you that our bid to the National Lottery Reaching Communities was successful and we now have funding for four years to provide a new solution focused service to 168 families who are socially isolated within our communities.

Please see attached a statement from our Chair of Trustees Simon Boulcott.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank  the Watford and Three Rivers Trust and their advisor Dawn Jordan for providing us with the support in submitting a successful bid.

Finally, just to add to our good news, our new shop is now open and situated by the subway entrance in Queens Road - every penny spent there and every donation makes a difference to a local family – please come and say hello!

Emma Power, Scheme  Manager

Home-Start Watford & 3 Rivers

IFST families @ Southend on Sea!

Southend at SeaWelwyn Hatfield & Hertsmere Intensive Family Support Team took 23 people on a seaside trip to Southend on Sea as part of our summer activities for families. It was good to see families enjoying fun activities together and getting to know other people. The families commented that the trip was very well organised and catered for the needs of all the family. A fun time was had by all!



Strengthening Families, Strengthening Communities

Strengthening Families, strengthening communities

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