Starting a conversation about child neglect in Dudley

1 in 10 children experience neglect according to the NSPCC, but what does this mean for Dudley borough families?

In November, Healthwatch Dudley brought local people and organisations together to learn new ways of finding out about what it means for children and young people to thrive.

The approach called participatory appraisal, involves using creative ways of researching views and experiences from a wide range of communities. Dudley Office of Public Health is investing in this piece of work as a big priority for Dudley Safeguarding Children’s Board and Dudley Children and Young People’s Alliance.

The project isn’t about reporting neglect but trying to find out how people view and understand what neglect is.

Conversations and feedback captured through the research will help Dudley borough decision makers develop a common understanding of this important issue and help them think about how future support is provided.

Healthwatch Dudley teamed up with Resources for Change to host Participatory Appraisal Training for 14 young people aged
between 14 and 21. The training was then repeated with staff and volunteers, health professionals and community representatives.

Each group learnt exciting and fun ways of working with other people to explore what it means to thrive, as well as
looking at the causes and effects of neglect. The group explored their surroundings, practiced conversation starters and created new ways to spark important discussions that have fed into our research.

People who took part have been trying out the new visual techniques and have been out in force at conferences and community events asking people to visualise what it means when children and young people thrive and what it looks and feels like when this doesn’t happen.

“I facilitated a group at a Dudley Council Local Offer workshop and used the skills I learned to help me, I hadn’t done anything like that before so it really gave me confidence.” Anne, Group member

Developing an information website for parents and carers of children with Specialist Education Needs and/or Disability (SEND)

June 2017 we developed a peer information website for parents and carers of children with SEND
(Specialist Education Needs and/or Disability) in Dudley borough, about the issues that they felt
were important to them. Parents wanted to know the useful gems of information that they would
normally only hear form a friend at the school gate or if they had the time, they may find a website
that may hold information relating to that issue. Since June 2017 we have had 2054 hits our main
page, currently averaging 250 hits a month. We have 84 Facebook followers and are connected to
other social media groups allowing us to keep our care and share community up to date with
website changes and updates.

Care and Share is split across four key themes, Education, Employment, School Gate Knowledge
and SEND Support and Services. These areas are made up of statutory services and local charity
organizations that parents access locally. We have worked with most of these organizations to
develop the site as best we can to make information easily available, and ensure that it reflects the
voice of child using that service. It also connects the user from the Care and Share website to the
service, support group or social media group required.

In Dudley 2017/18 there were approximately 1600 children with SEND that required an EHCP
(Educational Health Care Plan). Parents from Dudley Parent Carer Forum reported that the EHCP
Process and documents that attempted to explain the process were too difficult to understand.
Care and Share was able to simplify the information for parents making it easy to read and
navigate. We then created a video explaining the same process but with audio and visual aids to
help. The video was welcomed and endorsed at the ECHP Task and Finish Group by local
authority professionals who expressed that this innovative approach to convey the EHCP in a
simple effective way would not have been possible within their organization.

Care and Share work with small local groups and charities providing a digital platform to help their
service reach out and engage with parent/carers, professionals and the wider SEND community
across Dudley. We have supported a local group called ‘Treasure Tots’ Dudley’s only toddler
group for children with SEND aged from birth up to 5yrs. Treasure Tots was established by
parents of children with SEND through identifying a lack of peer to peer support for parents and
toddlers with SEND in Dudley.

“Care and Share are helping us let people know we are there,
we are now able to let everyone know what we are offering without just relying on social
media. We wouldn’t have the funds to get a website built for us so this is amazing” – Emily
Jane (group founder and senior leader)

In July 2017 we worked with a local barber’s shop in Stourbridge called Labichi’s to help them
promote the way they welcome children and young people with SEND. We created a webpage for
the shop and shared parent’s experiences and the voice of the child through social media. The
post got a reach of 21,000 users in 4 weeks letting people know about the Care and Share
website and this amazing SEND provision. Since then the shop is now a registered member of the
‘Autistic Barbers Assemble Association’ and have worked with Dudley Voices for Choice to
become a registered ‘safe place’ for young people.

“People only knew about us before
because a friend told them about us, we didn’t really promote ourselves because we didn’t
know that what we were doing was making such an impact on families, now we get
disabled kids in all the time, its brilliant”. – Ben Searly (Manager)

Championing the voices of children and young people

Dudley Young Health Champions supports 11-25 year olds to develop their own projects with a health focus based on issues that matter to them. The project began in September 2016 with funding from Dudley Clinical Commissioning Group, The Dudley Council Public Health Team and Dudley CVS. Led by our co-ordinator the project is located within Healthwatch Dudley and is helping with our important priority of championing the voices of children and young people.

There are now more than 100 Young Health Champions in schools, colleges and local youth organisations as well as 10 Young volunteers who regularly support the project.

During the last year, through the project young people have:

  • Raised awareness of organ donation
  • Taken part in safeguarding and suicide prevention training
  • Designed and delivered an exam stress workshop to 100 primary school children
  • Created a mental health resource pack (see opposite page)
  • Made their own mental health first aid boxes
  • Listened to the views of teenage parents
  • Hosted a workshop for other young people about emotions
  • Taken part in a debate about mental health
  • Shared their views on accessing pharmacy services
  • Developed a transgender dysphoria training course and pack to support professionals in school and community settings
  • Shared views about what it means to ‘thrive as a child in Dudley’.


The start of my journey… Creating a resource pack helping young people to explore their emotions and feelings

“My name is Becky, I am 19 and for the last eight years I have struggled with my mental health. I find it hard talking to people and find it easier to share how I feel through words and pictures. As a Young Health Champion I wanted to do something that would not only help me but would also benefit other young people.”

Becky has been supported by the Young Health Champions Project to transform her powerful artwork into a ‘blank canvas’ pack containing 14 postcards with Becky’s words, describing how each image makes her feel. The cards address important issues including guilt, anger, embarrassment, identity and hurt

and combine this with positive actions including mindfulness, helpful contacts and a blank ‘future card’ for young people to complete when they feel more able to experience joy.

Through the project, Becky worked with youth campaigning organisation Fixers to transform her artwork and words into a powerful film, that will be used with her resource pack to encourage other young people who find it hard to talk about their emotions to get much needed support.

The pack and film were launched in May 2018 and will be used in a wide range of health, educational and community settings to support other young people with their emotional health.

Supporting deaf people to have a voice

Deaf people have been telling Healthwatch Dudley about the challenges they face when communicating with health professionals and we responded by bringing together a group of people to talk about these experiences in more detail.

During the last year we have worked with Dudley Council Deaf Support Service to host bi-monthly meetings with people from the deaf community. These meetings allow local people who are profoundly deaf, to share their views about health and wellbeing and some of the problems they face when accessing services. We have invited representatives from Dudley Group NHS Foundation Trust, who have been listening and responding to a wide range of issues that have been raised with the support of British Sign Language interpreters.

A common issue with group members was anxiety about missing their turn whilst waiting for appointments if they cannot hear their names being called and they are not otherwise alerted. During a group discussion, it was suggested that this could be avoided with the use of vibrating and flashing pagers, which could be given to hearing impaired patients on arrival.

The hospital team listened and vibrating pagers have now been introduced to outpatients and other waiting areas across the Trust.

We shared this positive feedback with the Dudley Patient Opportunity Panel which is made up of local patient participation groups in Dudley borough. Members there are keen to support the same initiative within GP surgeries.

Group members have also been involved with reviewing posters for display within the Trust and as a result of our meetings, the Trust is also exploring how more formal deaf awareness training can be delivered to their staff, to complement their existing awareness sessions.

Members of the Dudley Clinical Commissioning Group staff team have also been invited to help the group to understand more about what they do. The group hopes that this will provide them with even more opportunities to influence change.


“Healthwatch Dudley has continued to provide valuable insight to The Dudley Group NHS Foundation Trust and form an extra dimension to the many different ways we like to hear from our patients about the services we provide. We have further developed the relationship we have with Healthwatch through the work of our Patient Experience Group alongside other external partners. We are particularly proud of the joint work we have undertaken with the Dudley Deaf Focus Group to help make improvements for people with a hearing impairment, including the introduction of pagers so people know when it is their appointment time and more awareness raised with staff. I very much look forward to fostering the relationship we have established and developing it further in the future.”

Diane Wake, Chief Executive The Dudley Group NHS Foundation Trust

Listening to people’s experience to influence health and social care services

The People’s Network first came together in 2015 when Healthwatch Dudley invited a small group of people to review the Dudley Council adult social care annual report for clarity. The group felt their experience was too narrow and discussed how a new network could be brought together to discuss different issues around health and care. The group decided that events should be informative, positive and powerful with real opportunities to share their experiences with people who make decisions about local services. During the last year, Healthwatch Dudley has hosted six themed People’s Network events, involving around 400 local residents and people who provide services. Here are the People’s Networks events we hosted last year.

May – a marketplace event with lots of stalls and information about health and care.

July – What does dignity mean to you?
Dignity can mean different things to different people. It can be about respect, privacy, self-worth and being treated as an individual. It can be hard to explain what dignity is, however you will probably know when you haven’t been treated properly. We invited people who attend or provide services at local day centres and care agencies, to share what dignity means to them. Everyone took part in group discussions and shared personal experiences and views. Following the event, we helped Queens Cross Network, Disability in Action, Dudley Centre for Inclusive Living and Dudley Council to create a survey. We also supported an event to capture people’s views and experiences of dignity, which will feed into a new Dignity Charter for Dudley borough.

August People’s Network Special about new models of care
A Multi-speciality Community Provider (MCP) is one of the models suggested by the NHS to develop local services. Dudley was selected as one of the first areas to introduce this approach and Dudley CCG is in the process of identifying a new organisation to deliver health and care to the people of Dudley. Dudley CCG carried out a formal public consultation in July 2016 to introduce what an MCP for Dudley could look like. We organised a People’s Network Special attended by 60 participants who questioned the proposals to ensure the re-design of the local systems work for local people.

September & March – Creating a health and wellbeing plan for Dudley borough
Home life, family and our experiences all have a big impact on our health and wellbeing – but what does this mean for people who plan health and care services? Every three years, local decision makers make a plan to ensure that the right services are in place to meet the needs of our local communities. Dudley Health and Wellbeing Board asked the People’s Network to help them identify and set priorities for the future. People discussed:

  • The things that keep us and the people we care for healthy and well
  • What services they really valued and what is good about them
  • Any gaps they have experienced in local health or care and what services they would like to be able to access in the future

The conversations that took place helped to steer a Health and Wellbeing Board development session and will help to shape the new plan.

November – Looking after ourselves together
To celebrate Self Care Week our November event shone another spotlight on local health and wellbeing services. The network was invited to find out about local services that keep us healthy and well, meet some of the people who deliver them and share experiences of accessing health and care services in Dudley borough. People with real experience of managing health conditions shared their experiences and information was shared in a marketplace about local services that can help us to take care of ourselves and each other. A further spotlight event involved people sharing first-hand how they are managing health conditions including diabetes and stroke and mental illness with the support of local organisations and groups.

A collaborative approach to championing carers and their rights

Dudley CVS’s Carer Coordinator is a partner of the newly formed Dudley Carers Alliance, a partnership of statutory and voluntary organisations as well as individual carers, which works together to develop and progress Dudley Carers Strategy. Dudley Carers Alliance meets to encourage local people who provide unpaid care to their friends and loved ones to participate in local decision making.

Dudley Carers Alliance’s theme for 2016 was around encouraging employers to become carer friendly. The Alliance also promoted the pledge during Carers Rights Day on 25 November, a day that brings together organisations across the UK to help carers caring for family members or friends know their rights and find out how they can get help and support. On the day, Dudley CVS Carer Coordinator organised a ‘Raising Awareness Afternoon Tea’ for outpatients at Russells Hall Hospital, accompanied by Healthwatch Dudley staff and volunteers.

The afternoon tea event was organised to communicate with staff, outpatients and visitors about caring for family members and to inform them of the support that was available in Dudley, as well as promote The Dudley Group NHS Foundation Trust and Dudley CVS Carer Friendly Employer Pledge. Andrew McMenemy, HR Director from The Dudley Group NHS Foundation Trust, joined the ‘Raising Awareness Afternoon Tea’ to discuss the issues faced by family carers who often struggle to maintain employment and the importance of ensuring that they felt valued by their employer. Dudley Carers Alliance launched the Dudley Carer Friendly Employer Pledge to encourage local employers to become Carer friendly workplaces and support carers balancing work with caring responsibilities.

In the build up to Carers Rights Day, Dudley CVS, Dudley MBC, The Dudley Group NHS Foundation Trust and Sainsbury’s Amblecote all signed the pledge and continue to spread the word about the initiative. Our Carer Coordinator and Older Peoples nursing staff also raised awareness about the Carer Passport, introduced by the hospital earlier in 2016. This followed the hospital’s commitment to John’s Campaign, a national Campaign highlighting the value of carers in a hospital setting to support the needs of the those they care for by offering flexibility over visiting time. The Carers Passport is available to any main carer of someone with a long-term condition who is an inpatient at the hospital and they can ask for one from nursing staff.

Collectively strengthening the work and value of organisations that support vulnerable children and young people

In 2015 it was mooted that services for vulnerable young people aged 16–24 were about to be retendered. This meant that the 8 groups that individually held contracts with the local authority might not be chosen to deliver work in the future.

Dudley CVS was commissioned to undertake a review of existing services by those who use them and some young people who didn’t. We drafted a 15 week programme that involved young people in observations, mystery shopping, filming, interviewing etc. At the end of the 15 weeks the group shared their findings and recommendations with senior leaders and wider stakeholders.

Using this information, we worked with 8 organisations that individually held contracts with the local authority to form an Alliance in preparation for their individual contracts to be put out to tender. Through the Alliance, each organisation’s work was strengthened by:

  • Sharing data and intelligence
  • Maximising the support available to vulnerable children and young people
  • Not duplicating work, but making a collective offer of support

Through this process they developed a person centred pathway, collective menu of services and support and agreed an alliance approach to capturing and sharing data using PSIAMS.

The Alliance recently (April 2017) met with the new head of commissioning at Dudley Council, who was impressed with the presentation that the Alliance delivered. The head of commissioning reported that this approach was innovation at its best and working in a way that Dudley Council is hoping to work towards.

Dudley Council’s head of commissioning has committed to engaging regularly with the Alliance over the coming months with a view to agreeing a negotiated contract.


“Without Dudley CVS help, the Alliance would not have been formed. It has facilitated partnership working in Dudley”

Dudley Alliance members.

Working together to bring in hard-to-access funding

Since 2014, Dudley CVS has been involved in work to bring hard-to-access funding, such as the joint EU / Big Lottery Fund programme Building Better Opportunities (BBO).

In 2014, Dudley CVS jointly set up Black Country Together CIC with the three other Black Country CVS in order to maximise opportunities for the sector, including bidding for work and funding to passport to frontline voluntary sector organisations that we know deliver great work.

In 2015-16, Dudley CVS brought 99 people from voluntary sector together to learn more about the BBO programme. BBO funding was available through four strands:

  • Employment support for over 24s
  • Targeted communities
  • Families in Poverty
  • Financial and Digital Inclusion

Each strand was to be administered by a lead organisation and Black Country Together CIC successfully applied to lead the Families in Poverty strand worth £3.4million.

Last year, we continued to support groups to access this funding by bringing together Dudley’s groups and identifying those that could deliver work under each strand, inviting them to attend a series of workshops to learn more. Phase Trust and Lunch on the Run were identified as two possible local partners and they requested Dudley CVS support on the initial expressions of interest and then the final project plan applications.

Our Funding Officer discussed the initial expression of interest face to face with each group and reviewed them before they were submitted. Both groups were invited to the second stage of the application, which was a project plan. Dudley CVS supported each group to put these plans together through a series of one-to-one meetings and email support to ensure that applications were as strong as possible when they were submitted.

Both organisations were successful with their applications. Phase Trust received £100,401 and Lunch on the run received £75,082 for work commencing Autumn 2016 and finishing by December 2019.

Both organisations are now able to support young people (Phase Trust) and people with learning disabilities (Lunch on the Run) through activities that positively address their issues around loneliness and poverty and that bring out their skills. Their work promotes people’s independence and improves their quality of life. Bearing in mind it’s still early days in the programme both organisations are now delivering these additional services (on top of what they usually do) resulting in their beneficiaries moving forward in their lives both individually as well as within their families.


Sally from Lunch on the Run said that she liked our “Professional guidance and better understanding to produce a successful application” in connection with her success in receiving funding through BBO. She went on to describe our support as friendly, supportive, professional and knowledgeable.