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Essex: Millions to be spent on helping troubled families

13:41 04 January 2013

Essex County Council's main offices at County Hall in Chelmsford

Essex County Council's main offices at County Hall in Chelmsford

MULTI-million pound plans to tackle the most troubled families in Essex have been revealed.

The scheme, which is set to be rolled out across the county this year, will target those families with children who are persistently absent from school, committing anti-social behaviour and adults who are in receipt of out of work benefit.

In Essex there are an estimated 2,200 troubled families which are thought to cost the public sector about £220m a year.

Essex County Council (ECC) say their Family with Complex Needs Programme is likely to cost £10,000 per family - a total of £22m.

The aim is to improve opportunities for disadvantaged children and reduce the overall cost to the county’s public services such as the police and the NHS.

Under the new proposals, central Government will contribute £4,000 towards the cost of each successful intervention and the remaining funding will come from local partnerships.

The first phase of the project will see four family solutions teams, made up of social and health workers, drug and alcohol specialists and housing officers, being established in four parts of the county, including Tendring and Braintree.

It is hoped they will work with at least 370 families by March.

The project will be expanded later in the year, with eight teams set-up around the county to target 180 of the most complex troubled families, such as those experiencing domestic violence and drug abuse.

The plans are outlined in a report to members of ECC’s Children and Young People Committee who will meet on January 7.

ECC’s cabinet member for children’s services, Ray Gooding, said the plans came out of work which was started by the council several years ago and is now running in parallel with the Government’s Troubled Families programme.

The Government is increasing local authority budgets by £448m over three years on a payment-by-results basis. Councils are rewarded cash for the number of troubled families who get their children to attend school or if an adult moves off benefits and into work.

Mr Gooding said: “While putting this project together we realised we can’t afford not to do this.

“We are really committed to this project because these sort of problems often go unresolved for years.

“We all know there are facilities there when things happen but we want to get in front of that and make sure families have resolved to deal with problems by themselves and not resort to assistance on a fire fighter basis.”

He said currently, the most complex families cost the public sector up to £100,00 a year.

Under the new plans, team members would work on a one-to-one basis with families and a volunteer programme would eventually be set-up to monitor and support families after they have taken part in the programme.

Mr Gooding said the aim is to have a family solutions team in every district by 2014.

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