The Cyrenians has acquired Families Talking as part of an ongoing expansion strategy.
Families Talking provides mediation services and support to children, parents, step-parents and grandparents affected by relationship breakdown. Currently based in Teesside, the acquisition will enable its services to be delivered throughout the region.
The move sees The Cyrenians continued expansion across the North East region leading to growth in annual turnover to over £8 million and numbers of directly employed staff increase to over 230. Families Talking currently turns over circa £665k and employs 14 staff.
The addition of the Middlesbrough-based charity to The Cyrenians’ group represents a further expansion and focus on tackling root-causes of homelessness and exclusion in society. Commenting on the acquisition, Baroness Hilary Armstrong of Hilltop, Chair of The Cyrenians said:
“At The Cyrenians we know from our extensive experience and research that a root-cause of people becoming excluded and vulnerable in our society is family breakdown.
“The work carried out by Families Talking complements our existing services. We are adding a very strong proactive service into our portfolio which successfully supports people of all ages - parents, children and grandparents - who are experiencing trauma and consequences of divorce or separation."
Ron Lamb, on behalf of the outgoing Board of Families Talking, said:
“We are delighted, through this merger with the Cyrenians, to have ensured that Families Talking now has significantly enhanced financial stability and a platform from which it can go on to make some real improvements and achieve further progress in its charitable aims.
“To ensure continuity of its work during this transitional period, a non statutory Advisory Board will be convened and members of the existing Board will be invited on to that Board. These are very positive times for Families Talking and its business which can look to the future with a great deal of optimism.”
The announcement followed a Trustees Meeting at which the acquisition was formally agreed. Stephen Bell, Group Chief Executives of The Cyrenians explained:
“The acquisition of Families Talking is part of our ongoing expansion strategy – sadly our work is in great demand but we are proud that our innovative ways of working are so effective and recognised nationally as exemplar.
“This year we expect turnover to exceed £8m. We now directly employ over 230 people in the North East - putting us amongst the top 5% of employers in the region.
“Clearly we are looking to extend the reach of Families Talking across all the regions where The Cyrenians works and to ensure that the service thrives on a sustainable footing.”
Liz Allison, Chief Executive of Families Talking, said:
“Our services help to create stronger communities - we promote putting the needs of children first in families which are experiencing separation or divorce. Fundamentally, it’s about good parenting, which doesn’t have to stop if separation occurs. We help families to make their own sensible decisions for the future.
“As a result of practical and emotional support from Families Talking, people are able to positively manage change and maintain healthy family relationships. Thereafter the likelihood of their children becoming disaffected, excluded or vulnerable is significantly reduced.”
In April 2011, a new legal protocol was introduced requiring separating couples to actively consider mediation as an option before their solicitors can issue proceedings. Liz Allison continued:
“With more than 40% of marriages now ending in divorce, and 1 in 4 children experiencing parental separation and divorce by the age of 16, there is greater demand than ever for our services.
“The value and need is clear – particularly following the change in legislation last year requiring separating couples to seek mediation before implementing formal proceedings.
“25% of children in the UK live in single parent families and 10% live in a step-family which can often introduce new problems involving the absent parent or extended family members.
“We know from our close work with parents, children and young people, families and step-families that our services have a huge and positive impact on their wellbeing. We are delighted that we will be able us to continue to deliver excellent, sustainable services and to expand our very successful work more widely.”
The value of Families Talking services was praised in 2011 in a report published by Teesside University. The University carried out a study of the Redcar & Cleveland ‘Parenting Shop’ project.
The report highlighted the high levels of satisfaction with the services provided, resulting in much greater stability in relationships between separated family members and reduced levels of conflict and stress following relationship breakdown.
Explanation of Mediation
- Mediation is a voluntary and alternative option to resolving family disputes in court
- There is no obligation or commitment to continue if people feel mediation is not for them.
- People don't have to be married or have children to use the service.
- Mediation assists people (including same sex couples and unmarried couples) at any stage of separation or divorce to negotiate their financial and/or parenting arrangements.
- Other family members such as grandparents can also be supported.
- At the end of mediation, an Agreement is drawn up to enable a solicitor to complete any necessary legal work.
- Mediation is confidential and 'without predjudice'; discussions, records or information used in mediation cannot be used in court to show advantage to either party.
- The Agreement is not legally binding until it has been confirmed in writing between solicitors.
It is helpful for children if parents can plan co-operatively about meeting their needs for the future. Mediators therefore invite all parents with children over the age of 5 to consider whether their children would like the opportunity to talk to someone in order for their concerns to also be heard. This happens only with the consent of both parents and the children.