COPES Services

COPES is the family outreach service within Action in rural Sussex. Currently our services are available to purchase by schools, other organisations, and parents across East Sussex (excluding Hastings and Bexhill).

An overview of our services are set out in the COPES leaflet .

Tailored support to children (aged 5-13) and their parents – to help with issues that are impeding the child’s progress and cannot be addressed by school staff, including:

    • Poor engagement in education
    • Behaviour difficulties
    • Friendship/social issues
    • Anxiety
    • Struggling with change following significant event, e.g. family break-up, bereavement, house move
    • Struggling to manage an ongoing situation, e.g. new family members including new parental partners/partners’ children, family member with significant health issues or terminal illness, sibling with autism/other condition placing demands on parents

We provide sessions over 12 weeks, working 1 to 1 with the child in school as well as school staff and parents to help them maintain progress, try new strategies and/or implement change. We use creative activities and game playing to encourage conversation to explore key issues and generate practical solutions, for children whose needs are at level 2 on the Continuum of Need. (See continuum of need).  Support is focussed on the needs of the individual child to build confidence, friendship skills and control unhelpful behaviours/thinking patterns.

Children may receive support from COPES if the school that they attend buys into our service, or if their parents are able to pay. Please contact us for details of costs.

Alternatively, group work can be delivered over 6 weeks for children struggling with similar issues such as bereavement, parental separation, self-esteem, social skills, etc. We usually co-facilitate with a member of school staff and would need parental consent, a regular, dedicated room and storage for resources.  Details can be discussed further to suit your requirements.

For an example of a recent case that COPES has been involved in responding to please click here.

Training and supervision to school staff

Our service can be tailored to help with a range of issues that can be challenging to school staff at times, for example: conflict resolution skills, asking appropriate questions, dealing with challenging parents, managing family issues in school.  The issue of managing children’s additional needs in class is best left to the ISEND department within ESCC.

Supervision can be offered to groups of support staff or individually to ensure that safeguarding issues are followed through appropriately, and that staff are provided with space to reflect on practice and upsetting/challenging situations, and assisted in devising workable systems to evaluate risk in safeguarding scenarios and take appropriate action. Protocols would need to be agreed re confidentiality, recording of sessions, and sharing pertinent information re in-school issues.

Play Therapy

Play Therapy is distinct from intensive COPES support as it requires specialist qualifications and external supervision to ensure professional standards of practice are followed.

It can help to address a range of psychological and emotional conditions in children that are causing behavioural problems and/or are preventing children from realising their potential. Play therapy is particularly effective with children who cannot, or do not want to talk about their problems.

The Play Therapist works using a wide range of play and creative arts techniques including: Creative Visualisation, Art, Storytelling, Sand tray, Music, Dance and Movement, Drama therapy, Puppets, Masks, Clay.   Play therapy may be non-directive (where the child decides what to do in a session, within safe boundaries), directive (where the therapist leads the way) or a mixture of the two.

COPES Play Therapists are qualified and receive clinical supervision from Play Therapy supervisors.

We require a regular, private, dedicated room, ideally with a sink and space to store resources, or access to a room nearby. Arrangements would need to be made to see children during school holidays in an alternative, conducive space.  Venue hire payable in addition, by arrangement.  Number of sessions agreed by discussion, but we suggest a minimum of 12 per child.

Groups for Parents

A range of groups are run for parents, these include:

  • ‘How to Talk so Kids will Listen and Listen so Kids will Talk’
  • The Incredible Years
  • STOP
  • Insiders’ Guide
  • Co-parenting groups for parents who live apart

For more information on these groups please click here and for details of the costs of all courses please contact us.

Early Help Key Work support for families

For further information on referring to the East Sussex County Council Early Help Key Work team, please note that from 3rd May 2016, the Single Point of Advice (SPOA) is the first point of contact for East Sussex Children’s Services and is available for both professionals and public who have concerns about the welfare of a child.

Tel: (01323) 464222   or    Email:

SPOA will make the decision as to whether the contact will be accepted as a referral and will be responsible for referring through to MASH (Multi-Agency Screening Hub) or Early Help Services if appropriate.

The aim of the SPOA Service is to enable Children’s Services to be able respond to the right referrals to ensure that children and their families are provided with the appropriate support and interventions in the timeliest way. For more information please click here.

COPES contact details

Please contact the main COPES service line on (01273) 407336


COPES began as a simple telephone support line for parents in 2003, and developed over subsequent years with funding largely from the local authority. Further to a successful tender in 2013, COPES was one of the family support key work services commissioned by East Sussex County Council, which continued until December 2015.

In January 2016, the local authority took the countywide family support key work service in-house so some staff previously with COPES are now employed by East Sussex County Council working alongside Targeted Youth Support as the newly formed Early Help Key Work service.  This team supports families with high level needs (level 3 on the continuum of need) described as ‘multiple and complex’, assessing the needs of all family members and working with them to bring about required changes to improve whole family life.

The COPES Team:

Sashka Dunlop

Margaret Hemper

Karen Laver

Lesley Napier

Judy Perraton (Team leader)

Please click on individual’s names for their biography.

What professional colleagues say about us

“I am so glad we have got this support for our children, we seem to have more and more emotional problems! I will tell my cluster group of SENCO on Weds how helpful you have been as I am sure they would appreciate support with their children!”

(Senco, rural Lewes district school)

“I love COPES!”

(Senco, Eastbourne school)

“X [school child]* is responding really well to the direct work, and the school have noticed an improvement in that she is less needy in school, and also becoming more confident.”

(Social worker)

“We find the service invaluable, and cannot praise X [COPES Worker]  highly enough.”

(Head Teacher, rural Rother district school)


“Supporting rural communities in Sussex to be vibrant and diverse places in which to live and work.”