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Working with 'troubled families' begins in Seacombe
A NEW multi-million pound scheme to help tackle problems of Wirral’s “troubled families” has begun in the Seacombe area.
Eighty families in the district are to be brought into the first phase of the national project, which was launched by the Government in March last year.
A further 400 families will be added from Birkenhead, Tranmere and Rock Ferry later in the year.
In total, Wirral is tasked with bringing 900 of the borough’s most dysfunctional families into the scheme by the end of 2015.
The criteria for being classed as a “troubled family” includes those facing problems such as unemployment, criminal activity, anti-social behaviour and poor school attendance.
Following the summer riots of 2011, the Government said there were too many families who were “not engaged with the system.”
Ministers set a national target to move 120,000 families from high levels of need to a point where parents are ready to work and where children are in education, employment or training.
They announced there would be a pot of almost £450m to fund the programme.
The efforts are being spearheaded by Government official Lousie Casey - labelled by critics as The 'Broken Britain' tsar - who in 2003 led Labour’s anti-social behaviour unit.
In July last year, she published a report based on 16 case studies which painted a bleak picture of teenage parenting, educational failure and physical and sexual abuse carried down through generations.
She described how in some households violence is endemic and "entrenched cycles of suffering" poisoned social networks.
A subsequent report giving guidance to local authorities published just before Christmas claimed family intervention reduces involvement in anti-social behaviour by 59%; involvement in crime by 45% and truancy, exclusion and bad behaviour at school by 52.
Once identified, a family’s participation in the project is mandatory and refusal can be punished through sanctions.
Ms Casey conceded some families needed "a very big stick", such as the threat of eviction or anti-social behaviour orders "or other tools of criminal justice".
But campaigners said Ms Casey's focus is too "narrow".
"It is vital that we do not lay blame for this country's issues solely at the doors of parents, but look much more broadly at the huge issues affecting this country's children and their families," Enver Solomon, policy director at the Children's Society, told the BBC.
"The impact of austerity measures, recession and some other major issues hitting children and their families hard have largely been overlooked."
A paper to Wirral Council’s children and young people’s scrutiny committee next week says the new unit will work “persistently and consistently” with families who have a history of non-engagement with services or those who received support but have failed to maintain “positive changes.”
One key worker will be assigned to a family to co-ordinate interventions. “This will make the intervention less chaotic for the family and reduce the amount of resources deployed by agencies.”
Successful “delivery” of the Intensive Family Intervention Project has the potential to earn the council £3.3m.
A guaranteed £2.1m will be paid through attachment fees and staffing grants and additional £1.2m is available through a “payment by results” scheme.
The Wirral programme is expected to cost around £3.7m and £100,000 will be made available from the central Troubled Families Unit to fund the post of a senior manager to run the operation.