Pioneering programme which prevents children from entering care system comes to Wales


A pioneering programme which has so far prevented 194 children from entering the care system will launch in Wales this week. 

Step Up Step Down, which is run by the UK’s leading fostering charity The Fostering Network, is partnering with Pembrokeshire County Council to revolutionise the support given to families at risk of breaking down. 

The programme provides tailored support to children on the edge of care and their families, by focusing on maintaining family units. Families are allocated a highly trained and experienced family support foster carer who Steps Up when needed and Steps Down when the family is in a better place. 

They empower parents and equip them with the skills and knowledge required to make positive changes in their lives, ultimately keeping families together. Families have described Step Up Step Down as ‘our rock’ and ‘a lifeline’.

Support provided by Step Up Step Down includes:

  • Short respite breaks for children and young people. 
  • Therapeutic nurture groups for children and young people, which explore regulation, relationships and life skills through art and play. 
  • Mentoring for birth parents. 
  • Training for families - exploring family relationships, attachment, effective communication and nurturing parenting.
  • Support from the community, including support groups, driving lessons, sports equipment, family activities and children’s holiday schemes.

Step Up Step Down will officially launch in Wales at an event in Picton Castle, Haverfordwest on Tuesday, 28 November. Initially the service will be rolled out across families in the Pembrokeshire County Council area, however the Step Up Step Down team has ambitions to expand to other local authority areas in the country, so as many families can be supported as possible. 

The programme was developed in partnership with The Fostering Network and South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust in Northern Ireland seven years ago, funded by the National Lottery Community Fund. It has been hugely successful – significantly reducing the number of children taken into care. It has supported 125 parents so far, helping 194 children to remain their birth parents, safely.

Keeping children out of the care system also has significant financial benefits for local authorities with stretched social care budgets. Independent analysis of Step Up Step Down in Northern Ireland found that £250,000 is saved for each child that is prevented from entering residential care – which would fund Step Up Step Down to support 15-20 families per year.

Jade Irwin, head of Step Up Step Down UK said: ‘Step Up Step Down is a really special programme because it works. The family support foster carers are at the heart of the programme – wrapping around the entire family unit and doing everything they can to ensure a child or young person remains at home safely.
‘Following the success of Step Up Step Down in Northern Ireland, we are delighted for it now to support families in Wales. Parents have told us how much they value the warm and non-judgemental approach Step Up Step Down takes.

‘Ultimately we want every family who could benefit from Step Up Step Down support to have it – and launching it in Wales this week brings us a step closer to that ambition.’

Darren Mutter, head of service at Pembrokeshire County Council said: ‘We are delighted to be the first local authority in Wales to work with Step Up Step Down. The programme is already having such an incredible impact on families in Northern Ireland and we are excited to bring that support to families in Pembrokeshire.
‘Focusing on prevention is one of the most important things we can do amidst increasing demand for social services and that’s exactly what Step Up Step Down does. The programme’s highly trained foster carers use a nurturing approach to empower families and keep them together, providing a much-needed lifeline for those in need.’

Notes for editors

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