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The NSPCC has launched a new free service in Birmingham for local black, Asian and mixed heritage families to help them keep their children safe.
The NSPCC service, called Supporting everyone together, gives families the opportunity to come together and with the support of a trained NSPCC professional, consider what they can do as a family to help address worries raised by the local authority about a child's safety and welfare.
Last year (2011 -12) 1,271 children in Birmingham were subject to a child protection plan, 41% of whom were Asian, black or of mixed ethnicity.
The aim of the service is to give families the support they need to help prevent their children from being subject to child protection procedures. Supporting everyone together can also help when children are already in the care system, to consider what the family can do to address the problems that have led to their child being taken into care.
Sandra Lescott-Robinson, NSPCC Midlands regional head, explains: "We know that no family is the same. We think it's really important that if concerns have been raised about a child's care by children's services, families first have an opportunity to decide for themselves, in private, what they can do together to address the problems that have caused concern.
"The service is led by families and what they say will work best for them and their child. We help them to make a plan they are able to follow to address the problems raised by children's services."
The NSPCC worked with one family who were referred to Supporting everyone together because their son was in care due to the impact his mother's physical health problems were having on his welfare. For the little boy to remain permanently at home, his parents agreed to have a family group conference and invited their immediate family and friends.
The whole family was able to openly discuss problems in a way it hadn't been able to before, and together they planned a rota of support for the mother so she always had someone to call on for help when she needed it. The family felt the service really helped them.
The NSPCC's work in Birmingham will help give a greater understanding of the issues affecting vulnerable minority ethnic children, giving the charity knowledge and expertise that it can then share with organisations working to protect children in the UK and beyond.
Cathy Small is the manager at the NSPCC service centre in Birmingham, where the Supporting everyone together service is based: "There are lots of different situations when having a family group conference might be helpful. For example, there might be a breakdown in communication between a teenager and their parents and the child's wellbeing is becoming a concern to the authorities as a result. Or it could be that parents have been struggling to care for their child and some extra support could really help them.
"If you think this service might be able to help you or a member of your family, or if you're working with a family who could benefit from this service, please don't hesitate to contact us on 0121 200 4600 to find out more."