A SUPPORT service that offers advice to separating couples will offer free help until March.
The Family Separation Partnership, a group of agencies working together to help families of parents experiencing a break-up, is offering support until March, when the 18-month free pilot scheme comes to an end.
The partnership says January to March is usually a fraught time for couples following the festive season and financial troubles.
Many couples decide to separate and are being urged to take advantage of the free service.
Partnership leader Gill Walker said: "The first few weeks of January is unfortunately a busy period as couples separate following a fraught Christmas and New Year period.
"This year we would urge separating couples to come forward for this service and speak to one of our separation specialists to see how we might support your family."
Since its launch in November 2009, the partnership, which includes organisations including Families Talking, Relate, Headland Futures, Harbour Support Services and the Citizens' Advice Bureau, has had 276 referrals.
It has also seen 160 cases where one or both parents have been seen or engaged with the service, 130 cases were people have taken up one or more of the partnership's services, 103 cases which have successfully engaged with the services and 51 cases of short-term intervention from one of the services or sign-posting to other agencies.
Hartlepool Borough Council's children's services portfolio holder, Councillor Cath Hill, will hear the progress the partnership has made during a meeting on Monday.
But a report to the meeting says: "The last quarter's increase in awareness from a range of referrers and in self referral raise concerns that just as the service is becoming embedded in Hartlepool it will cease without future funding."
The service is for couples with children who are separating to help them to access the support they need to resolve conflict and minimise any harmful impact upon their children.
The partnership is unique to Hartlepool and can provide support with issues relating to the children, with debt and legal issues, housing, employment and parenting.
The support is provided by a partnership of five voluntary organisations and Hartlepool Borough Council and gives families an opportunity to access mediation, counselling and support completely free of charge.
The partnership is conducting an evaluation of the service to demonstrate what it achieved with a view to seeking alternative funding.
The various partner organisations may still be able to provide support to separating families individually, subject to the availability of their other funding streams.
The Family Separation Partnership can be contacted on (01429) 865375.