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New service offers holistic help to families

CADAS is very excited to be announcing the pilot of a brand new service for families affected by substance use in the west of the county. West Cumbria Family Support, a two-year pilot project, is believed to be the first of its kind in Cumbria.

The project will operate in Allerdale and Copeland and cover Whitehaven, Workington, Egremont, Cleator Moor, Maryport, Wigton, Aspatria, Silloth, Keswick and Cockermouth. If successful, the aim is to roll it out to the rest of Cumbria.

Amy Armstrong, the West Cumbria Family Support Co-Ordinator

We have just appointed Amy Armstrong, who lives in Millom and comes from being a child and family coordinator for Family Action working across Copeland, to co-ordinate the new service.

“The plan is to support about 15 families a year who have experience of problematic substance use with a longer, more intensive approach,” said Emma Spedding, North and West Service Manager for CADAS.

She said the work would be ‘holistic’ and ‘whole-family’. Help would be offered to the family member whose use of drugs and alcohol had become an issue – to identify possible causes of the behaviour and create a plan to reduce the frequency and amount of consumption – and also to anyone in the family unit impacted by it.

At the moment members of the same family might be being helped by CADAS staff through, for example, its children’s service, its parent carer family support service or its adult recovery service but they come into the service as individual clients and are seen one-to-one, rather than with other family members.

“We could be working with a family but not as a whole unit,” said Emma. “With this project we will have a single worker co-ordinating everything within the family. We will be able to create shared language across the family so everyone is communicating using the same terms and is working on the same page. Family members will have different targets but they will all understand the plan for the family.”

Emma said a person’s substance use could cause stress for other family members. That, in itself, could lead to the family member suffering mental health and physical problems and, in some cases, turning to harmful behaviour, including substance use, gambling and overeating.

As usual at CADAS, we will choose from a diverse range of approaches to find the right one for each member of the family. These will include identifying things they can to help their mental health, such as physical activity, music, writing, volunteering or learning a new skill. Another aspect will be equipping members of each family with tools, such as communication and parenting skills and anger management techniques, to build their resilience and confidence to cope with situations. The whole family would also be given practical support, such as guidance on where to go to find additional help, including external services such as a GP, Unity and Al-Anon, for people whose lives are affected by someone else’s drinking.

Emma explained the new service was particularly aimed at families with very young children or families with children or young people of any age where there were significant issues.

“These are the families where we think we can make the most difference in terms of improving their outcomes and keeping people safe,” said Emma.

Referrals to the service can come from a variety of sources, such as Children’s Services, a hospital’s A&E department, a youth worker, schools, GPs, the police or any professionals working with children aged 0-5.

Amy Armstrong is now contacting agencies to tell them about the service and generate possible referrals. Agencies can contact Amy by ringing 0300 111 4002 or emailing

West Cumbria Family Support has been funded by Sellafield Ltd, through the Cumbria Community Foundation.

Emma added: “I am really excited by the launch of this new, ground-breaking service, which we believe will make a real difference to the lives of families in our community.”

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