Women whose children have been taken into care are being offered the chance to go on a scheme which could change their lives – as long as they agree to go on contraception.
Wigan Council is the first in Greater Manchester to launch a scheme which aims to break "destructive patterns of behaviour" in women whose children have been removed from them.
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But if they want to join the 18 month programme, women must agree to go on "long term reversible contraception".
Wigan has already identified 89 women in the town – who between them have had 304 children taken into care over the last five years- as people who might benefit. It is also aimed at women who are at risk of having their children off them.
If it is a success in Wigan, the scheme could be taken on by other authorities in Greater Manchester, councillors heard at a committee meeting.
Women who take part have a programme designed around their needs – anything from learning to read and write, getting access to a dentist, help avoiding toxic relationships, getting over childhood trauma, beating addiction, and taking responsibility for their choices.
Councillors in Wigan – who launched the scheme this month – have welcomed it as an "exciting" addition.
Officers said by reducing the number of children taken into care, the project has potential to save the authority significant funds.
A report presented to the town hall’s children and young people scrutiny committee said: “Through an intense programme of support, (Pause) aims to break the cycle and give women the opportunity to reflect, tackle destructive patterns of behaviour and to develop new skills and responses that can help them create a more positive future.”
The council has employed three practitioners and a project lead for the scheme, according to the report.
Coun Myra Whiteside, chairman of the town hall’s children and young people scrutiny committee, said: “I’m really excited about this project, we have discussed it before and I think it’s one of the most positive things I’ve ever read.”
Pause was launched in Hackney in 2013, but this is the first time it has come to our region.
Its founder Sophie Humphreys says of the contraception requirement on Pause website: “Pause gives women the chance to take control of their lives. It creates the space to bring about positive change.
“The success of our voluntary programme is predicated on working with women at a time when they do not have a child in their care, or are pregnant. To enable this they are required to use long acting reversible contraceptive (LARC) if they decide to join.
“The women on the programme are able to have a period of time where they can focus on their needs and development, alongside others, without the risk of pregnancy during that time. They will gain better control of their lives, improving relationships with existing children and increase the chances of them being able to successfully care for future children, if that is what they want.”
Wigan Council heard that Department for Education evaluation of the scheme reported that if every woman in England who had had two or more children removed worked with Pause, more than £2.5 billion could be saved over the five years.
It claimed that "every £1 invested in Pause is yielding a return of a minimum of £9 over five years" and said that there was a "dramatic improvement in the health and well-being of Pause women who complete the programme".
Referring to the possibility of it being rolled out across the region, a report from Wigan Council officer Sue Myers, heard at the committee meeting, said: “Whilst we were carrying out our scoping exercise Pause was attracting interest across Greater Manchester (GM) and it was agreed that we would look to potentially develop a GM offer for Pause. As Wigan had already completed a scoping exercise, it was agreed that we could start to implement Pause.”
Meanwhile, Claire Burnham, lead officer for the project, said: “It is something we’ve been talking about for 18 months.
“The project recognises there are cohorts of women in every area who have had multiple children removed (from their care).
“While those women are pregnant there’s lots of services wrapped round to support them and the baby.
“Once they’ve given birth and if a decision has been made that baby can’t stay with the birth mother, all those services disappear, for want of a better word.
“Often that woman has a lot of things going on but they’re not reaching the threshold for a lot of our adult services or aren’t engaging with those services. What tends to happen is we see a cycle where they get pregnant again.
“Pause is about asking that woman to take a pause and work with the team and address some of those underlying issues.”