Hampshire Now - your County Council magazine

Making life better for Hampshire's 'troubled' families

Friday, 19 July 2013

Within its first year, a new multi-agency partnership, formed to support families with improving children's school attendance, cutting anti-social behaviour and helping adults into work - has made strong progress and will be reporting at least 50 positive outcomes for families in Hampshire at the end of July.

A report to be considered by Hampshire County Council's Cabinet on 22 July sets out the first year's progress for Hampshire's Supporting (Troubled) Families Programme. It confirms that the first year target of identifying 530 families in need of support has been exceeded, with 546 families identified, and has already made a difference to 50 families.

Measures of success for these families range from: parents or older siblings being helped back into training, education or sustainable employment; significant improvements in children's school attendance; and reductions in youth crime and anti-social behaviour.

Through a more targeted and co-ordinated multi-agency approach, at the family level, the programme is a unique opportunity to transform the lives of families and communities across Hampshire. It also seeks to improve the effectiveness of the proportion of public money that is spent on high-need families. Over time, this approach will help to reduce the costs on the public purse.

Councillor Keith Mans, Executive Lead Member for Children's Services at Hampshire County Council, who chairs the partnership, commented: "It is good to see that Hampshire's Supporting (Troubled) Families Programme is providing critical support to the families most in need of help, to get them back on their feet and deliver positive changes through giving them structure and routine in their lives. While the progress is good news, this is a very challenging programme and we must not be complacent. We will continue to work closely with our partners to improve co-ordination to help these families, with complex and multiple problems, be less dependent on public services and benefits."

Cabinet Members will also hear that approximately 150 families have been nominated to an Intensive Family Support Service, provided by "Transform" (a consortium of national and voluntary sector providers). Each family is provided with a single intensive family support worker who will act to co-ordinate services around the family plan and deliver additional interventions such as specialist parenting support and dedicated employment advice. Additionally, a consistent multi-agency single family plan is in place for more than 500 families.

Karen, a family support worker who works with families being supported by the programme, commented:"Many families tell us that they know help is available, but they say they find trying to get the right help, from the right organisation at the right time can be difficult and sometimes confusing.

"My aim is not just to fix problems, but to help families discover their own abilities, and become more independent. I will get to know the family and help to co-ordinate support services for them. We will develop a single family plan together which sets out clearly the help they can expect to get from all the agencies involved and what we expect from the family. I could be working with a family for anything from a few months to a year and beyond."

Demands on children's safeguarding and protection services increase with each year. Currently, Hampshire County Council Children's Services is dealing with approximately 10,000 cases per year and these pressures have an impact on all public sector agencies. Working more closely together to target appropriate intervention at families, at an early stage, benefits those families in need and helps to reduce costs for the taxpayer. It has been estimated, nationally, that an average 'troubled' family costs the public purse £75,000 per year. These estimated costs and potential savings to all public agencies in Hampshire will be evaluated over the three years in partnership with the University of Portsmouth.

The programme aims to engage with 1,590 families across Hampshire over three years (to 31 March 2015) and has a clear emphasis on early help and preventative work, enabling families to break cycles of being out of work, poverty and social exclusion. It builds on the partners' existing work to engage families who need early help to avoid problems escalating, benefiting both the families and their communities, as well as avoiding significant future costs to public funds in the longer term. This is being achieved through:

  • innovative approaches to targeted family intervention using a dedicated family support worker addressing the needs of the whole family;
  • improving the provision of early help;
  • building on, and improving, the co-ordination between agencies and existing service provision.

The Supporting (Troubled) Families work is supported by Government funding of up to £5.3 million, together with £1 million of new money that Hampshire County Council has already committed to the programme. This is in addition to the resources that Hampshire County Council and other public agencies already contribute to support and help for Hampshire's most complex families and communities.

The programme is also being supported by resource contributions from Hampshire Constabulary, district councils and Job Centre Plus. The Police and Crime Commissioner's (PCC) Police and Crime Plan 2013-17 commits to supporting the initiative and the programme is a strategic priority for Public Health England (PHE).

It has recently been announced that central Government will be investing an additional £200m nationally to extend the programme beyond 2015. This investment reflects a collective commitment for agencies to work more effectively to turn around the lives of high cost families and reduce the current and future cost pressures on the public purse.

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