Trevi House: 25 years of giving children back their mums

A packed crowd attended the public screening of the recent BBC Panorama programme highlighting the work of Trevi House in Plymouth, and the journey of two of the mums that lived there in particular.
Trevi House will be familiar to many Plymothians, especially those who have found that life’s difficulties can sometimes spiral out of control.

Celebrating 25 years supporting families, it was originally founded in 1993 by the late Roma French, mother of Dawn French, and remains the only service of its kind in the UK.

Trevi’s vision is that children with mums who have a drug or alcohol addiction can be given a chance to remain together. Each mother follows a personalised rehabilitation plan which involves individual and group therapy, detox from medication and close liaison with social services.

They have launched the Change a Child’s Life Campaign to highlight the fact that there are 73,000 children in care right now, with the use of drugs and alcohol involved in two thirds of applications.
Evidence shows that where possible, maintaining a family relationship and avoiding care leads to better chances for both mother and the baby later in life.

73% of recovering addicts are likely to succeed if they can keep their children.

Trevi’s belief is that mothers should be given the support to address the root cause of their addiction whilst being given the opportunity to bond with and care for their child, so they can break the cycle of pain, grief and separation that so often is already part of their story.

Despite having the space for 10 placements, Trevi is usually only half full as cash strapped councils struggle to find funding to offer this support. However, as Hannah Stead, CEO of Trevi House, explains, “Our six months placement is much cheaper than the hundreds of thousands of pounds required to keep a child in care, so this is a long-term investment that could significantly reduce expenditure.

The programme is tough; however, over the last 5 years, around 60% of families have completed the programme and left Trevi House together, and over the last 3 years over 95% of women admitted to detox at Trevi have successfully managed to become substance free.

As one young mum explained, “Wanting a different life for my kids has driven me to relinquish my old life, helping me overcome my resistance to change.”

Another said, “There are reasons behind why it happened.”

Most women arrive at Trevi having been victims of abuse and/or domestic violence. Many struggle to live with feelings of guilt and shame at having children taken into care in the past. Indeed, repeated removal of children puts a huge strain on care services, affecting over 11,000 mothers in the UK between 2007 and 2014.

Arriving at Trevi is seen by both mothers, staff and social services as a last chance to stem the flow of devastation this brings, so the stakes are very high.

Trevi is committed to putting itself forward as a viable option to local councils to offer long lasting solutions, and, as a charity in its own right, is looking for donations to change a child’s life.
Just £5 could buy a comfort blanket for baby to cuddle at night, £100 could help a family set up home when they leave Trevi House together.

Donations can be made by texting TREV11 £5 to 70070 or by emailing or calling 01752 255758.


First published in the Plymouth Shopper – March 2018

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