Women’s Aid ABCLN Family First Project provides early intervention approach to addressing the devastating impact of domestic abuse for women and children.

Funded by The National Lottery Community Fund, the project works in partnership with the Northern Health and Social Care Trust Family Intervention teams across Antrim, Ballymena, Carrickfergus, Larne and Newtownabbey.

From the outset the project established an innovative, proactive partnership model with the Northern Trust to identify and support families in greatest need in order to reduce risk, minimise harm, prevent separation resulting from children being taken into care and strengthen family relationships.

Family First  works with women and children in the family home providing practical support and education to reduce the need for statutory intervention. The project  advocates  with and for women and children affected by domestic abuse working in partnership with social services to provide positive outcomes.

It’s goal is to reduce risk, increase safety and  maintain children safely in the primary care of their mother.

In the last four years 182 children engaging in the project were at risk of or where registered on the Child Protection Register.  Of this 78% of children achieved the maximum positive outcome.  Out of 142 children, 81 are now off the Child Protection Register and 61 have had their risk reduced of going on the CPR.

The Family First Project works collaboratively with NHSCT  to share good practice and learning and increase knowledge and skills for professionals across all agencies working in partnership to achieve the best outcomes for women and children .

We have been able to work with families or children that are at high risk but actually with the significant input from Family First has meant that we have been able to manage that risk and keep those families at home, which has just been great and is where those kids should be if at all possible.  It has been really good at bridging the gap between statutory and voluntary and also us working together to provide the best services together to support the families that need them at the time.

Tracy Magill

Northern Health and Social Care Trust

Often the biggest victims of domestic abuse are the smallest. Every child living in a home with domestic abuse is need of protection and support.  Children may experience  intense feelings of fear and uncertainty and there is increasing harm to children to children’s emotional, physical, psychological and social development.

Family First aims to support these issues.

Quotes from children who have accessed support from the Family First Project

  • When he starts shouting I hold my sister’s hand to make us feel better
  • I can’t close my eyes because I see bad things
  • I don’t think anyone believes me, but I know the truth
  • It is my job to protect everyone if dad comes back
  • When the fighting happened it was always my job to call 999 for mum
  • Even though daddy’s left now I can still hear the fighting in my head
  • We are always worried about mum getting hurt
  • I find it hard to talk to anyone as I didn’t ever feel safe
  • I struggled to control my anger

Family First staff work with mum to look at her existing strengths and build on these, focusing on the children’s safety and well-being and ultimately empowering her be the best parent she can be. The project offers practical bespoke support for each family looking at issues including behaviour management, healthy eating, sleep routines, promoting positive play and family activities together.

Family First provides emotional support helping mum to look at the cycle of violence and the impact that domestic abuse has had on their children. Support workers also offer one to one therapeutic work with children helping them to keep themselves safe and giving them the opportunity to talk about any  worries they might have.

I was a bit scared of meeting my Family First worker but she was really nice and she had  friendly face.  We did fun things together like making stuff and she taught me about ohoh sounds. So now I know what my body does if I get scared and who to talk to. She has definitely helped  mummy to. I hope now  there is happiness.

  • One in four women will experience domestic abuse in their lifetime
  • Police respond to one incidence of domestic abuse every 17 minutes in Northern Ireland
  • In 90% of incidents of domestic abuse children are in the same or next room when violence happens.
  • Between 2016 – 20 Women’s Aid ABCLN Family First Project has saved the Government approximately £28.4 million
  • In the last four years 182 children engaging in the project were at risk of or where registered on the Child Protection Register
  • 78% of those children achieved the maximum positive outcome
  • Out of 142 children – 81 are now off the Child Protection Register and 61 have had their risk reduced of going on the CPR

I am delighted that thanks to funding raised by National Lottery players we have been able to support the development of Family First. It is clear that that this project is making a major difference in the lives of children living with domestic abuse. There is very clear evidence of the numbers of children who have reduced risk or have been removed from the child protection register. We are delighted to support this ground breaking and innovative project.

Seamus McCann

National Lottery Community Fund