Open day at county’s first residential family centre

Ambient House staff, from left, Vanessa Richards, Lindsey Newton, Xanthe Dodd, Charley Rawlins, Rebecca Arman, manager Georgina Puttock, Jessica Proctor-Heather, Susan Hayward and Patricia Goldsmith
Ambient House staff, from left, Vanessa Richards, Lindsey Newton, Xanthe Dodd, Charley Rawlins, Rebecca Arman, manager Georgina Puttock, Jessica Proctor-Heather, Susan Hayward and Patricia Goldsmith

A former midwife is set to launch the first residential family assessment centre in the county, in a bid to help teenage mums.

Georgina Puttock, 39, was fed up with the lack of provision for people needing to learn to safely parent their children.

She wanted to make a difference and give young mums with areas of concern a chance to prove themselves, to prevent their children being taken into care.

Georgina and husband Kevin bought the former Swan Guest House in Nyewood Lane, Aldwick, and have refurbished it to create Ambient House, a secure centre with 24-hour awake supervision.

She said: “I got fed up with sitting in meetings needing something like this and it not existing. It was driving me mad. Then my husband said, let’s just do it.

“I wanted it to be like a home, not like an institution. I just wanted it to look like a nice, comfortable home.

“It will be quite a lot of young mums. They have to prove that they can parent and everyone deserves the opportunity to do that before a decision is made on removing a baby.”

Georgina was a midwife at St Richard’s Hospital in Chichester and Worthing Hospital for seven years, specialising in teenage pregnancy for the last three years.

“If we can change five of the first six families that come through here, then that at least we have given them a chance they might not have had before,” she said.

“It is not going to be easy. I hope we have thought of everything. We know we are going to come up against teething problems.”

Arun District Council is yet to make a decision on change of use from a bed and breakfast hotel to residential institution and Ofsted approval is required but Georgina hopes to have these in place to open mid-September.

Ambient House, which is 200 yards from the beach and West Park, will serve West Sussex, Hampshire, Surrey and South London and placements will be made through local authority referral.

An open day was held on Wednesday to show officials the facilities on offer, including accommodation for six families and a communal dining room that will serve as a space for core group meetings.

Georgina said: “As a midwife, the one thing that was always hard was getting a meeting room for core groups. This is ideal.”

There is a kitchen where families will make their own breakfast and lunch, a communal lounge and an outside courtyard.

There are options for mother and baby; mother, baby and sibling aged under five; and mum, dad and baby.

The idea is to equip them with enough life skills for independent living. Each family will be allocated a key worker and there will be one-to-one group counselling.

Georgina said: “There will be structure to the day, with meals at set times, to get them into a routine for life.

“They will get their own breakfast and lunch from food provided as they have to show they can do things for themselves. It is no good if they go home and can’t function properly. The evening meal will be done for them.

“Currently, about 30 per cent are able to keep their baby, so we are going to aim much higher than that. I just want to make a difference and give them a chance.”

Families will stay for a minimum of 12 weeks but the average will be six months. Georgina aims to set up a trust fund so ongoing financial support is available, for example for further education.