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Aims and Objectives

The service exists to provide specialist assessment and support services for clients with special needs and/or vulnerabilities.  The service provides residential and community based care for families who have special needs, this includes assessment, support, teaching and developing communication skills and independence within the community.  

The service aims to promote the value of family life for parents who have special needs and/or vulnerabilities through bringing together a specialist team of expert practitioners. Symbol offers a unique service to clients who themselves encounter disability and resulting social exclusion.  Nowhere is exclusion more keenly felt then when a disability prevents a person from experiencing family life.  Being able to raise one’s own child is a very special gift.  For many of us no one questions our right to do so.  For many people who face disability, be it a learning disability, a physical disability or a sensory disability that opportunity is too often denied.  For parents who have additional emotional and/or psychological needs, the role of sensitive and informed assessment and support is paramount.

We aim to:

  • Keep the child or children at the forefront of our assessment process
  • Through our assessment provide expert opinion, able to contribute to the decisions reached by the Family Courts, practitioners and the families themselves
  • To clarify and articulate the level and nature of support that families may require to assist them in the care of their children.

The most important person in the process is the child and it is our view that any parent, whatever their disability, background or circumstance, must be able to offer a safe, secure, nurturing environment for their family if they are to have their children in their care.

The service is registered with Ofsted and we are proud to have an outstanding rating.  See our report here.

To hear more about lives really changed by this service click on:

Service Description

The Symbol Family Support Service provides a range of services for parents with special needs and vulnerabilities.  These comprise:

  • Our Residential Family Assessment centre at Newington Manor in Newington, Kent.
  • Our designated Community Assessment Service
  • Long-term community support and, where required, supported housing for families requiring a transitional period back to the community or for families within the community who require long-term support.

In respect of our Residential Centre at Newington Manor, the primary aim of the service is to provide a skilled multi-disciplinary assessment of families with special needs and/or vulnerabilities where there is concern over their ability to parent their children. 

The service provided at Newington Manor is delivered via a dedicated staff team who each bring their own unique skills to this assessment process.  By ensuring a focused, dedicated support staff team, children are not exposed to multiple carers and the family is enabled to develop and maintain their primacy of care with their own child. 

Children attending our Residential Service do so in the care of their families and their family at all times retain the care of their own child.  The role of the support team is to facilitate this care in order to assess its underlying nature and to examine the effect of skilled intervention upon parenting abilities; in essence we are considering parenting potential. 

We recognise the prevailing evidence base that all parents with special needs will face a challenge in parenting their children.  This challenge has the potential to lead to long-term unintentional neglect and we support the evidence base that suggests that this long-term neglect may be ameliorated by the successful intervention of services. 

A central role at Newington Manor is to determine the nature of this long-term intervention and to identify the potential for this intervention to enable children to safely, securely and happily remain within their own families. 

Where this is not possible, the aim of our work is to ensure that families understand the reasons why their children cannot remain with them.  They may of course, not agree with these reasons but our belief is that it is vitally important for their future well-being that they are enabled to appreciate the professional’s view and to therefore incorporate these views into their future planning for family life.  Where a vulnerable adult is unable to continue to care for their child, we see our assessment role to be to identify their own needs for future support to live successfully within the community alone without their children.

The Symbol Family Support Service Residential Team is supported by the Assessment Team, the members of which are regularly and consistently working within the Newington Manor Centre.  These practitioners may contribute to the assessments undertaken in preparation for a family to enter the residential centre.

This team consists of:

  • Consultant Clinical Psychologists,
  • Senior Social Workers,
  • Specialist Speech and Language Therapists,
  • Consultant Occupational Therapist
  • Behavioural Specialist,
  • Research Psychologist,
  • Specialist Health Visitor. 

These personnel, in the main, undertake the primary assessment and prepare reports for court proceedings. 

During families’ residence at Newington Manor, the members of the Family Support Service will work with parents and children in individual and group sessions and work alongside them in caring for their children.  In identifying key targets for change and monitoring with the adults, we are able to clarify the actual change that has been achieved.  We aim to identify the specific strategies required to support and the most effective forms of intervention as well as to review any change we observe in parenting application. 

We aim to provide a secure, warm and nurturing environment, where families can experience the value of family life, mix with other families going through the same process and begin to understand their own role in parenting their children.  We aim to assist parents to develop their bond with their children, to understand the needs of their children and to begin to develop their skills and insights in order to fulfil those needs. 

Where families have to face difficult issues and choices within their own family life, our team are on hand to work through this process and to assist them in placing the needs of their children first. 

Our specialist team has many years of experience in supporting parents with special needs and in working with parents who are vulnerable.  In some instances we will be asked to support families where there are children, rather than, or as well as, parents, with, or considered likely to have, special needs.  Our skills and abilities as a team and our experience of working with children with special needs enable us to meet this challenge in a unique manner.

Our service philosophy is based upon evidence.  It is based upon the research data, which informs us as to the parenting difficulties, styles of intervention and possible outcomes for parents with special needs.  Our underlying philosophy is based on a behavioural approach, which enables us to work alongside families to look at changing behaviour whilst creating deeper understanding.  Many of our families will have central cognitive impairments.  They will need assistance with learning and a clear understanding of their learning needs and styles will enable us to ensure that the most effective learning takes place in the shortest possible time.  Centrally we consider their potential to maintain this new learning throughout the child’s minority years and adapt to the child’s changing needs as they grow.

Why not meet:



Our Psychological Assessment Models

These broadly fall into three areas:

  1. A formal psychometric assessment that takes place to identify the level of intellectual functioning that individual has, including of course the presence of a learning disability or borderline learning disability.  This is totally evidence-based and all cognitive assessments are undertaken by our Consultant Clinical Psychologists using detailed psychometric assessment. 
  2. A behavioural model based on functional skills assessment, which aims to identify skill deficits and remediate these through a precision teaching model.  The aim of the intervention that takes place is primarily and fundamentally to assess learning capacities and also to establish the most effective teaching procedures.  It would, in practice, be impossible to assess a parent’s potential to care for their child without some practical intervention that was carefully monitored to measure progress and outcomes. 
  3. A Cognitive Behaviour model which focuses on the assessment of cognitions and attributions, and the role that these play in many aspects of personal self-control skills, including anger management and the control of alcohol and drug misuse, but which also includes broader cognitive skills or functions such as time management, problem solving, planning, insight, empathy and negotiation and assertiveness skills.  Once again, it would be impossible to judge and measure a parent’s capacity to overcome the difficulties which have been identified, without running some interventions that are specifically designed to measure the capacity to change – so, for example, the capacity to manage one’s own anger or impulsivity or to learn to plan and problem-solve. 

We aim to assess and, if necessary, develop skills in the parent to enable them to live more successfully within the community, to care for themselves, to maintain their financial position, to budget, to cook, to maintain a healthy, happy environment both for themselves and their families as they grow.  Many of our families will not enjoy good extended family support and part of our role is to determine the supports that may be required that might otherwise come from an available extended family.

Criteria for Admission for Residential Assessment

The families entering Newington Manor Residential Centre must have a special need or additional vulnerability and be felt to be suitable for the approach taken within our service. There are no minimum or maximum ages for the children attending with their families.  We accept one parent families and two parent families, single children and multiple children.  Each family entering the Residential Centre would have been the subject of previous review by the Assessment Team.  Where time allows, each family visits the Centre prior to moving in.

Significantly, in determining whether we will undertake a residential parenting assessment we consider whether there is sufficient parenting potential to justify a residential assessment, and the necessary disruption this may cause, and whether this is the most appropriate type of assessment to be undertaken with a particular family.

We offer places to clients according to a strict appraisal of the following factors:

  • The presence of a learning disability or other vulnerability that has the potential affect a person’s ability to parent adequately
  • Our appraisal of whether a person has already received specialist intervention
  • Whether a person has undergone any other form of assessment which utilised full and accurate information concerning the person’s learning style, ability and deficits
  • We consider whether we feel we are able to offer anything over and above that which has been offered to date and whether a person would benefit from the assessment and teaching strategies that we have developed
  • We appraise the presence of other factors which may reduce a person’s potential to parent for example, additional disability, ill health, mental health need, the numbers of children to be cared for or the availability of appropriate housing
  • We consider the evidence for a person’s ability to work with the professional network
  • The presence of disruptive personal networks upon a person’s functioning
  • We consider the individual’s personal history and their own experiences of being parented
  • Where a child would be returning to their parent’s care from a period of foster care we consider the length of separation and the potential for delay for the child that might have a prejudicial affect upon any permanent placement
  • Given the strong likelihood that a person with a learning disability will require support throughout a child’s minority, we consider whether there is likely to be a supportive network at a local level or whether a person is able to relocate to an area where such support may be available. 
  • We consider whether a client has had access to a full and fair assessment of their parenting potential
  • In the light of the above factors, we consider a person’s potential to care for their child in the long term.

Our assessment & service process

There is an average, or standard, assessment stay of six weeks within our residential service. During which time at least one formal review will be held to which the families will be invited. The assessment is commenced with a Placement Planning meeting.

Detailed information is gathered prior to admission of any family from the bundle of documentation supplied. Often we are asked to undertake a Document Review, through whichmembers of the Assessment Team are asked to review key documents concerning the family to determine the suitability of an assessment of the family at Symbol in relation our criteria for assessment.

Our assessments are most often informed by a Letter of Instruction from the Court which needs to be provided before placements commence. It is from the Letter of Instruction, in addition to our own baseline assessment and information shared at the Placement Planning meeting that a tailored assessment and support plan is devised which informs the course of the assessment for each family.

Whether our service is provided at Newington Manor or in the community, we are able to build a supportive environment where children and parents are given the maximum opportunity to develop and display their skills in order that the Professional Team to make sound robust decisions for their future. 

The Registered Provider and Manager

Tessa Duffy - Managing Director
Symbol Family Support Services Ltd
Head Office
Dickley Court
Dickley Lane
Lenham, Maidstone
Kent, ME17 2DD

Chloe Deeble - Rogers  – Centre Operational Manager
Symbol Family Support Services Ltd
Newington Manor
Callaways Lane
Newington Manor
Kent, ME9 7LU


Telephone:    01622 859216

Email:             info@symboluk.co.uk