For mothers with children who have been placed into care, or children at risk of being placed into care.

Main activities

Drop-in sessions; peer support; weekly support group


Crewe, Cheshire

Key outcomes

  • Improved social links and ties
  • Increased confidence, knowledge, skills and assets
  • Individual and collective action and control



Motherwell provides specialist support services for mothers with children who have been placed into care, or children at risk of being placed into care. The charity works with these women to help them grow in confidence and feel valued, more resilient, and emotionally stronger. Motherwell’s organisational vision is given as ‘Giving mothers, on their journey, the tools to rehabilitate their lives whilst living with poor mental health’.

Each member in this project works with their support worker to produce a person-centred support plan that focuses on the following eight areas: managing mental health, voluntary work/employment, addictive behaviours, healthy relationships, healthy lifestyle, daily living skills, social networks and self-care. The support worker can help mums understand the court process and will also attend court with them if they need support or advocacy. They may also act as an intermediary with social workers, solicitors and other agencies.

For women who have relinquished so much control throughout their lives, it was important that a project was devised not just for the women, but by them. Project staff encouraged members to be actively involved in decision-making: enabling them not only to receive personalised support to suit their needs, but also to have a sense of ownership and control of their own support plan.

“So that was really interesting in that way because they had good input into what their support plan is and why we do them as we do them.” (Project lead)

In addition to one-to-one support, Believe members could access peer support and group activities and were involved in shaping the format of the day-to-day activities.

For some members, building positive relationships with others was difficult. Identified issues included feeling judged, not feeling accepted within society, having difficulty with trust, and experiencing poor mental health as a compounding factor. The development and facilitation of peer support work within the Believe project – both formally and informally – was foundational to the creation of positive social connections between members.

Project leads said that the peer support and mentor schemes had been slow in making progress ‘in the traditional sense’. Because members take time to build trust, it also takes time to develop social links. However, they emphasised that the progress and development of the group must be in line with each member’s needs and should not be pushed to align with predetermined timescales. This group of women requires additional time for building trust and relationships both with one another and with the staff members of the Believe project, before peer support can be achieved.

“It is difficult to get the women to tell their whole story. It takes time.” (Project staff)

Members highlighted the project’s atmosphere of acceptance without judgement both by their peers and the staff. Project activities had been a way for members to get to know others within their community in a safe and positive environment. For some, it felt like the first time they had been able to interact with other women who knew what they have been through. In addition to the specific Believe project activities, members were invited to take part in a wider timetable of activities available at Motherwell. This gave them the opportunity to interact with women of all backgrounds and experiences whilst doing organised activities, which widened their social networks.

Women supported by the Believe project often had a negative self-image and lacked self-esteem, confidence and aspiration. They may have been told over a number of years and thus believe they are ‘not good enough’, project leads said. The involvement of social services can be tangible evidence that they are being judged as ‘not good enough’ by those around them. The project aims to empower these women, make them feel valued, rebuild their confidence and find their place in society.

“They have so much just done to them, so by letting them be involved and co-produce something, we are giving them that voice to be heard.” (Project staff)

The project was funded by People’s Health Trust with money raised through The Health Lottery North West.

This case study was carried out by Ecorys UK, who are conducting an independent evaluation of People's Health Trust's Active Communities programme. This case study formed part of the last year of the evaluation process.

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Motherwell Cheshire CIO evaluation case study