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Specialist role helps support families and improve children's well-being

Three women stood outside a GP surgery

Meet the health liaison officer who is the link between health and social care to help improve children’s well-being in Neath Port Talbot.

As the health liaison for the Single Point of Contact (SPOC) children’s social services team, Deborah Bunyan’s main role is to ensure seamless communication between the health board and children’s social services.

The overall aim of the role is to improve outcomes for the most vulnerable children and their families in Neath and Port Talbot.

Pictured: Cluster development manager Lynne Thomas, health liaison for SPOC Deborah Bunyan and Neath LCC lead Dr Deborah Burge-Jones.

Deborah provides specialist health intervention. She has worked in collaboration with the SPOC children’s team since May 2021.

Before that, she worked as a Flying Start health visitor in the Neath Port Talbot area.

The women stood outside a GP surgery

“It has always been a passion of mine to promote the health and well-being needs of children and their families,” Deborah said.

“My experience first as a nurse and then qualifying as a health visitor has really helped me in my role.

“My current role allows me to further my passion of working with professionals in the NHS and social services and helps to support the collaborative working between services.

“As a health liaison, I continue to promote the needs of children and their families, to help them enhance their overall well-being.”

On a day-to-day basis, part of her role involves overseeing the SPOC referrals, which relate to a child’s health and well-being.

Deborah deals with referrals requiring further information from a health perspective, enabling multi-agency working between the children’s social services and GPs. This ensures families are offered the correct intervention and support.

With the SPOC children’s team supporting children from birth right through to the age of 18, she offers a wide range of support to children and their families – including liaising with midwives, health visitors, doctors, nurses and paediatricians.

She also links with GPs in the community to help ensure services are working together seamlessly.

Alongside children’s services in Neath Port Talbot, Deborah’s role is supported by three of the Local Cluster Collaboratives (LCCs) – Afan, Neath and Upper Valleys – who can contact her directly for support.

Dr Deborah Burge-Jones, Neath LCC lead, said Deborah’s role had already had a significant impact on people living in the Neath area.

“Deborah has helped get the right support for some of the most vulnerable children and families in our communities,” she said.

“The goal of keeping a family together is of utmost importance to us. Ensuring families are better supported to move forward with the help of others is central to what the service aims to achieve.

“The impact of Covid changed the dynamics of lots of families across the cluster. Children off school and parents working from home meant increased pressures on the family.

“The cost of living crisis is another problem clearly affecting children and families.

“As a cluster, we are proud to be able to support this project, and of the impact it is having.”

The women wearing masks while stood on the stairs

Bridget Ruggiero, Flying Start health visiting service lead for Neath Port Talbot, said the role provided a seamless link between the health board and social services.

“It is absolutely invaluable, and I think it is a really pivotal role,” she said.

“To have that source of communication with social services it so important.

“Her role is to make sure everything possible is considered and carried out to create a positive outcome for the child.”

Lynne Thomas, health board cluster development manager, said: “LCCs bring together local professionals and services involved in health and care across a geographical area.

“Working in this way ensures care is better coordinated to promote the well-being of individuals and communities, with a lot of hard work going into developing services and support based on local need.

“Afan, Neath and Upper Valleys LCCs recognise the value this multi-agency service brings to vulnerable families in their communities.

“The three LCCs have been part-funding the role with Neath Port Talbot Council since May 2021. They have committed to continue until March 2024 when it is hoped further funding can be secured to continue the service at its current level."

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