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Family assessment centre opens

PUBLISHED: 09:00 02 October 2009 | UPDATED: 08:37 01 August 2010

A CENTRE where parents will be assessed on whether they are capable of looking after their children has opened in Waveney.

The Break family assessment centre will house families for 12 weeks at a time while being reviewed by staff, who man the unit 24-hours a day.

A CENTRE where parents will be assessed on whether they are capable of looking after their children has opened in Waveney.

The Break family assessment centre will house families for 12 weeks at a time while being reviewed by staff, who man the unit 24-hours a day.

The newly refurbished property, on Corton Road in Lowestoft, can host four families at a time, who will have their own bedroom and kitchen facilities, while sharing communal areas.

Centre manager Daniel Forde-Pogson said referrals of families who are judged to be “in crisis” in terms of parenting would come from both Suffolk and Norfolk county councils.

It means that any families from the Waveney area who are referred for assessment would be able to maintain contact with friends and relatives, as only handful of such centres exist in the country.

He said: “The overall aim is to produce a very comprehensive review, with a recommendation of what should happen, and whether the children should go home with the parents or not.

“With staff here 24 hours a day we get a very good picture of what the issues are and whether they can change. We don't expect them to leave being perfect parents but we have to assess their ability for change.”

He praised the spacious, modern facility that was bought and refurbished by Break's partner Saffron Housing Trust, which leases it to the charity, adding: “Part of the reason we want it to be on an ordinary street is that we want to be part of the community, where families feel part of the community.”

Judge Jeremy Richards, designated family judge for Norfolk, unveiled a plaque at the official opening on Tuesday.

The Lowestoft centre is the newest project of Break, whose services include a similar unit in Sheringham and holiday centres in North Norfolk for people with learning disabilities.

Mr Forde-Pogson said Lowestoft was chosen as the location for Break's first centre outside Norfolk for a variety of reasons.

“It's another string to the bow,” he said. “Lowestoft was chosen partly because Break wanted to venture over the border and partly because we wanted to offer the service to Suffolk. We know that there's a need here and we feel we can meet that need based on the success of the Sheringham unit.”

Malcolm Cherry, mayor of Lowestoft, said at the opening: “This is something Lowestoft is going to benefit from. I was in care and fostered and we didn't have this type of facility where our family could have gone and prevented a lot of that happening. It's very much needed and I believe it will be a great success. I think it's brilliant.”

The first families are expected to take up residence in mid-October.

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