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Family First

Family First Early Intervention for Children


Family First provides an early intervention approach to address the devastating impact of domestic abuse for women and children. The project works with mums and children in their home and providing intensive one-to-one family support, hands-on practical assistance and education.


Family First supports women experiencing domestic abuse to reduce risk and increase safety, strengthen family relationships, remove the need for statutory intervention and prevent children going on the child-protection register or into care.


Domestic Abuse Specialists  work together with mums to develop a support plan focusing on safety planning and protection measures, safeguarding, behaviour management, positive-parenting, healthy-eating, sleep routines, family activities and play.


They support women to understand the cycle of violence and recognise the impact domestic abuse has on their children. They provide one to one therapeutic support for children enabling them to cope with the trauma they have experienced. Domestic Abuse Specialists will advocate for and with women and children, working towards a positive outcome, helping mums to be the best parent they can be and supporting families to recover from the impact of domestic abuse.


The overall aim of the project is to reduce risk, increase safety and maintain children safely in the primary care of their mother.

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

Family First staff work with mum to identify her strengths and build on these, focusing on children’s safety and well-being and empowering her to be the best parent she can be. Supporting children and their mothers individually and through family together activities, we restore hope, begin to heal and ultimately strengthen family relationships.

Women’s Aid ABCLN and the Family Intervention teams working collaboratively to share good practice and learning has made this project a success.

Social Workers said;

“Our aim is always to support parents to maintain children at home and the project helps us to do this in a way that is innovative.  This service – unlike many others – goes into the family home, supports the mother but also addresses any need there might be to support the children in their emotional wellbeing.”

Family First fits well with Signs of Safety.”

“I am always recommending this service to my colleagues!”

“The ‘in home’ support with domestic abuse awareness alongside parenting support – this model works!”

The achievement both partners are most proud and believe has made a difference to the lives of the children is the number of children removed from the register.

In total from 2016- 2022

  • 300 were removed from the Child Protection register

  • This represents a cost saving to Government of £60m.


Cost Savings £60m

Outcomes can be reflected by the cost savings of children prevented from going into care. This costs in the region of £200,000 a year per child  x 300 children equals £60,000,000 savings.


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.

The Family First project works collaboratively with the Northern Health and Social Care Trust 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 16 minutes in Northern Ireland

  • In 90% of incidents of domestic abuse children are in the same or next room when violence happens

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

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