In Funding Stories, Life skills, education & employability

Project: Contribution to core running costs
Grant: £4,000
Fund: HoB General

Saunderton Lodge is Wycombe District Council’s (WDC) emergency accommodation for homeless families and individuals. Families of Children United Support (FOCUS) has been actively involved there for the past 12 years and work with residents developing their personal life skills and helping to prepare them for a return to independent living.

Families and individuals arrive at Saunderton Lodge having been made homeless due to a variety of circumstances. WDC place the more vulnerable and in-need families at the lodge and they often arrive with few possessions and, in some cases, are quite traumatised by the whole challenging experience of finding themselves homeless.

FOCUS work closely with the lodge staff to offer both mental and physical support. For vulnerable and homeless parents they ensure they have the knowledge and support they need to bring up their children through their trained Parents as First Teachers (PAFT) project workers.

PAFT offers a mixture of one to one parenting sessions alongside ‘Den’ sessions where the parents and children get together and engage in activities. In 2017/18, 66 adults and 88 children came to their ‘Den’ meetings and 11 families with 15 children received ‘Born to Learn’ PAFT personal visits during the year.

In addition to their PAFT work, their ‘all age’ project workers support families and individuals by helping to improve their life skills. As a result when they move on from the lodge they are better equipped to live independently.

Case study

Sarah and Dan* had recently had a new baby girl and had been evicted by their landlord. Both the parents were suffering from high anxiety and coming to terms with their dire situation. They were rehoused by Wycombe Council into emergency accommodation at Saunderton Lodge.

From the first day I knocked on their flat door I was aware it was going to be a challenge to involve them in any meaningful activities which involved them leaving the security of their flat. After several weeks visiting them I began to establish a working relationship. Sarah was a good mum but struggled with her confidence, which impacted her and her daughter’s social interaction.

Sarah and Dan began coming to our Den group sessions which gave them a chance to meet up with other residents and their babies. I was able to introduce Sarah to the health visitor, Doug our therapy dog, and signpost her to a charity which was able to help with the family’s overwhelming debt.

Over the four months that the family stayed at the Lodge I was pleased to see a great change. Sarah became engaged with our local children’s centre and began to provide support to the other new residents in a real but subtle way. The family have now moved into further temporary accommodation but still visit us at our Den sessions. Sarah is returning to work after maternity leave and Dan is going to take on baby care duties. I have seen in this couple, how regaining confidence changes people and FOCUS gave them the chance and opportunities they needed. Through our non-judgemental support, suggestions and praise we gave them the tools they needed to look forward to a better future. (*names changed)

– Denys Williams (Chair)


FOCUS will cease as a charity in August 2019. Wycombe District Council have plans to relocate the homeless facility to a new build situated in High Wycombe. This will have many positives for the residents particularly the proximity to support services such as the children’s centre, health visitors and local facilities. The trustees of FOCUS decided that this would be a good time to cease their activities.

The Heart of Bucks grants panel were very sad to learn that FOCUS have decided to close, but do understand the reasons and are very pleased to have been able to help towards their final year.

From all at Heart of Bucks, we would like to pass on our true appreciation for the work FOCUS have carried out over the years.