Hampshire civic chiefs plan more support for troubled families

COUNTY chiefs are set to introduce tailored plans and one-to-one support to turn around the lives of 1,590 troubled families in Hampshire.

The aim is to break a cycle of living on benefits, low educational achievement and anti-social behaviour which can span generations.

The Government has promised to pay local authorities up to £4,000 per family for reducing truancy, cutting crime or getting parents back to work.

Ministers say 120,000 problem families in England cost taxpayers £9bn each year and want to turn these around by 2015.

The county council’s Cabinet will tomorrow (Oct 29) be asked to approve a strategy and funding for the scheme.

Hampshire has been promised a three-year £5.3m pot of government money with payment by results for 40 per cent of it.

In addition, the county has agreed to contribute £900,000. Under the government programme, the county will lead various agencies dealing with these families in an effort to join up services, including social services, housing departments, schools, doctors, police and probation officials.

Council leader Ken Thornber said: “This will be challenging work and it is crucial we have the right strategy in place so that the programme brings long-term benefits not only to the families with which the partners will work but also for the wider community.”

The aim is to deal with inter-linked issues of a whole family, rather than individual members or single problems.

For each family a single plan will be developed with the emphasis on early help and prevention. An estimated 495 of the most dysfunctional families could get daily visits from a single key worker.

The council plans to go out to tender for private companies to provide intensive family support at an estimated cost of £3.3m a year, starting in April 2013.

A report to Cabinet said this should save the public purse in the long-term with fewer children taken into care, housing evictions or prison sentences.

The report said: “A key aim is to stem the tide of families requiring more complex and costly statutory interventions alongside improving outcomes for those families and their children.”

Meanwhile support for the other 1,095 families may simply involve better co-ordination and targeting of existing services.

The county has set up a multi-agency partnership board to oversee the programme chaired by

Councillor Keith Mans, executive member for communities and international affairs.
The progress of each family will be tracked.

In addition, there are local co-ordination groups in each district council area to identify troubled families and draw-up tailored plans.

Government funding for problem families depends on them meeting two out of three criteria: involvement in crime or anti-social behaviour, children truanting from school and unemployed.

Families facing other problems such as domestic violence, drug or alcohol abuse and mental illness could also be helped with cash contributed by the county and other partners.

County bosses say the government initiative is a “significant opportunity” to radically reform services for some of the most troubled households.

But there is concern some families are “deeply entrenched” in their dysfunctional behaviours and highly resistant to change.

The report warns there must be “collective realism, not pessimism about the scale of the task.”

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