Essex: Support to turn around troubled families ‘is working’

Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles Photo credit should read: Suzanne Plunkett/PA Wire

Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles Photo credit should read: Suzanne Plunkett/PA Wire - Credit: PA

More than 180 so-called troubled families in Essex have been “turned around” under a government scheme to help reduce crime, anti-social behaviour and truancy.

Essex County Council said it was where it expected to be with the scheme and was getting “great feedback” from families it supported as figures revealed that of 569 families it had worked with since the project was launched last year, 185 met government targets to reduce truancy or exclusion from school and youth crime.

But the figures showed that none of the families hit a work target to get adults to volunteer or join a work programme, although the council said the figures did not reflect the true picture because the target was only met after a number of months.

Dick Madden, cabinet member for families and children, said: “We are really pleased with where we are with our family solutions services and we are getting great feedback from the families we are supporting.”

Essex has put extra resources into the project as part of the pilot for Community Budgets, with extra help from the Department for Education and the Department for Communities and Local Government.

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Mr Madden said: “We have doubled the size of our Family Solutions teams and so have increased capacity with a year two target of almost 1,500 families to be turned around by the end of the programme in 2015.

Under the “payment-by-results” programme, local councils that succeed in tackling problem families are to be paid up to £4,000 for each household whose lives they turn around.

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The arrangements will be available for five out of six troubled families and cover only 40% of costs, with the county council expected to fund the other 60%.

Communities secretary Eric Pickles said: “These figures show that our no-nonsense and common sense approach is changing these families for the better and benefiting the whole community.

“Considering the often long-standing and deep-seated nature of these families’ problems, it is a huge achievement to have turned so many around in such a short space of time. And instead of several costly services working with the same family but failing to solve the underlying problems, this approach is both more effective for the family and cheaper too.”

The government’s £448 million three-year budget for 2012 to 2015 is drawn from across six Whitehall departments who all stand to benefit from the public sector working more effectively with troubled families.

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