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Meet the team


  • Mark Irwin - Operational Manager Short Breaks/ICT & Social Work/Social Care Professional Lead
  • Elaine Mooney - Elaine Mooney, Head of Service, Children with Disabilities Team

What is the positive change that has emerged through new collaborations or partnerships during Covid-19 that your project is going to embed?

An innovative idea was piloted using the Model for Improvement with the aim of utilising existing contracted and non-contracted voluntary sector partners to provide unique 1:1 or 2:1 tailored care packages for priority children in the community with additional support from the Short Breaks Team, Community Access Team and Transition Planning Team.

·        Families have been able to remain together and continue functioning without their children being admitted to the care system.

·        Parents/carers noted improved mental health for themselves and also their children.

·        Increased confidence (91% of children), resilience and self-esteem were cited as positive outcomes from attending the activities.

·        Many of the sessions provided safe socialisation opportunities during lockdown and the importance of family was reinforced through some of the resources.

·        45% of the children had started to make progress within teamwork and working together whilst other parents noted their children having improved speech.

What does your project aim to achieve?

At the outbreak of Covid 19, Children’s Disability services worked with over 630 families within the Southern Health and Social Care Trust via a mixture of residential, short breaks fostering and contracted/non-contracted community programmes.

The project is primarily designed to support families and stop children with a disability being admitted to the care system when normal support systems are disrupted or withdrawn due to COVID-19 or other system pressures. Traditional services and education cease or are disrupted during these uncertain times which places additional stressors on these individuals. These families already often struggle to manage due to the additional needs of their children and these circumstances can overwhelm their coping abilities without an adequate respite response from statutory services.

How will the project be delivered?

Specifically within the Trust we would like to upscale this model and develop it further to target complex children with severe challenging behaviour who are unable to access many life opportunities and services. Additional funding would allow the Trust to commission and train staff and voluntary services in cases that require a 2 or 3:1 staffing ratio to manage the needs of these complex children. The proposed service would be providing a service with increased staffing levels where the child could be cared for and stimulated on their own in a safe environment.

The project has and will deliver value for money as it is much cheaper than residential/foster care and the basic components tend to be simple but effective. The fact that 30 children availed of the service from March – June 2020 shows that the model manages risk effectively in very dangerous and uncertain times.

How is your project going to share learning?

The project will share learning by developing the model/guidance document and then disseminating locally, regionally and nationally through the Q Community and other stakeholders. This model shows that moving very quickly and instigating positive intervention within a rapidly evolving situation is possible if there is true partnership and collaboration. The element of clear lines of communication is one of the key themes that will be shared in addition to overt roles and responsibilities.

This model could also be equally applied to adult services.

How you can contribute

  • Are there similar models out there?
  • Critical friend

Plan timeline

28 Feb 2021 Finalise job description and personnel criteria.
28 Feb 2021 Scoping of providers and stakeholders for additional views
15 Mar 2021 Agree data collection process and tools.
15 Mar 2021 Liaison with therapeutic services and training staff.
15 Mar 2021 Scoping of high priority children within disability caseloads, agree criteria
15 Mar 2021 Submit recruitment E-requisition
15 Apr 2021 Commence recruitment process
2 May 2021 Interview 2 x band 4 support workers
15 Jun 2021 Commence induction and training for band 4 support workers.
1 Jul 2021 Commence role and assist with summer schemes
5 Sep 2021 Local launch of project and communicating service
15 Dec 2021 Interim progress evaluation of project report
31 Mar 2022 Final evaluation of service and wider regional dissemination


  1. Really interested to hear about this innovative work and your ideas to take it forward in a very practical way. My colleague, Pete Dudgeon and I, are working with the Health Foundation to support conversations and collaboration among Q members during this Q Exchange round. We were successful as Q Exchange bidders last year, with Improving Improvement, so we're hoping that our experience will help others' ideas to develop and take shape.

    It might be worth browsing some of the online groups within the Q community to see if you can join or post to generate up further support or collaboration. There is a group already for community healthcare, but there may be some others such as the Bridging Networks group that could also be helpful.

    Good luck with your idea - we'll look out for opportunities for collaboration and connection as the other ideas come in.

    Best wishes, Emma

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