The future of a vital family support organisation in South Birmingham is under threat, as government funding for their work is to be slashed by almost a third.
The SWEET Project operates from the 3 Estates area of Kings Norton, offering support to families, children and vulnerable adults. The innovative project receives most of its funding through Education Support Grants (ESG) that the government pays to support students, in this case student social workers, on placements. In September, the grant will be slashed by almost a third, from £28 per student per day, to just £20. meaning that the SWEET Project and many other organisations will be at risk of closure – losing vital services in the community and essential experiential work placements for students.
The project was conceived by colleagues Jayne Hulbert and Jayne Cresswell when, in 2009: “Birmingham’s family support provision was moved to north Birmingham, leaving none in the south”.
Seeing the gaping void of services left for vulnerable families and adults in the area, “The 2 Jaynes”, working alongside University of Birmingham, came up with the SWEET Project model: A way of providing a valuable social support while, at the same time, creating high quality, well supported work placements for social work students.
The SWEET Project is the go-to service for many involved in working with vulnerable families, children and adults in South Birmingham – clients are referred by Birmingham City Council, NHS psychiatric services, GPs, police and fire services, domestic violence support groups and many more community partners. Almost all the work the project carries out is funded by ESGs, providing essential support for all these community partners at no cost to them.
Over the last 4 years, the SWEET Project has provided help and support for many vulnerable families and individuals in the area and has provided placements for over 400 student social workers from 26 universities across the country – from Scotland in the north, to Bristol in the south.
The project won a Big Society Award from Prime Minister David Cameron in 2011, the Big Venture Challenge in 2012 and the project is widely respected across the country – not least by those whose lives are turned around thanks to their support.
Despite this, the project, along with others who use the ESG to fund their operations, now have just weeks to find funding from elsewhere to remain open and to maintain the service they are currently able to offer.
Northfield MP Richard Burden is currently supporting the SWEET Project in their request to the government for more time to absorb the change. Read his thoughts
A petition has been set up on the government’s e-petitions site and you can sign it here