A SENIOR councillor says it “seems criminal” that a support service that offers advice to separating couples is coming to an end just when it is starting to make a difference.
Independent councillor Cath Hill was speaking about the Family Separation Partnership, a group of agencies working together to help families of parents experiencing a break-up, which is only offering free support until March when the 18-month pilot scheme comes to an end.
Since its launch in October 2009, the partnership, which involves organisations including Families Talking, Relate, Headland Futures, Harbour Support Services and the Citizens’ Advice Bureau, has helped 276 families.
The period between January to March is usually a fraught time for couples after the festive season and financial troubles, with many couples deciding to separate.
Partnership leader Gill Walker appeared in the Mail last week urging separating couples to come forward and speak to one of the separation specialists to see how they could support the family.
Coun Hill, Hartlepool Borough Council’s portfolio-holder for children’s services, met to hear the progress made by the partnership.
Coun Hill said: “It seems criminal that just when we are getting this going and people are self-referring, which is always a good test, it is stopping.
“We are not happy with what is happening, but we have got no choice at the moment.
“It is with sadness I note the report and I just hope that something comes along to fill the gap.”
Council officers said the pilot scheme was always going to come to an end and that it has helped raise awareness of the impact on children when parents separate, it has put a number of the service providers on the radar and it has also helped improve training in town.
Services provided by the various partner organisations will still be able to provide support to separating families individually.
The service is for couples with children who are separating to help them to access the support they need to resolve conflicts and minimise any harmful impact on their children.
The partnership is unique to Hartlepool and can provide support with issues relating to children, debt and legal issues, housing, employment and parenting.
The support is provided by a partnership of five voluntary organisations and the council and gives families an opportunity to access mediation, counselling and support free of charge.
Partnership bosses are conducting an evaluation of the service to demonstrate what it achieved with a view to seeking alternative funding.
The Family Separation Partnership can be contacted on (01429) 865375.