“Family Action’s Building Bridges services is an outstanding example of how those families (with multiple complex needs) can get the help they need."
“You’ve shown us we can do it and we want to expand it.”
So said the Minister for Education Tim Loughton speaking at our Parliamentary reception for MPs and our service users and workers of our intensive family support services.
This recognition of achievement was very important to our service users and workers. The Minister was also launching the latest statistics for Family Intervention Projects, the Government’s own programme for intensive family support, albeit reserved for families with the most challenging and often offending behaviour.
These show that that FIPs more than halved truancy and school exclusion and domestic violence in the families they’ve been helping and reduced child protection issues by around a third.
This is a substantial achievement for a home-based intensive family support project but what is interesting is that just under 9000 families have been helped since the programme’s inception in 2007. This compares to around 2000 families helped by Family Action’s Building Bridges intensive family support since 2004.
The point is that for a national Government programme FIPs to date has been comparatively small scale. This is not unconnected to its costs: the cost of working with the families with the most needs including drug and alcohol and offending issues is up to £20,000 a year; and at its cheapest it costs £8,000 a family.
This investment is excellent value for money for the tax payer and priceless for families, children and communities at the point of despair.
Post the summer disturbances the Prime Minister’s commited to extending the Government’s support to 120,000 “troubled” families. We can’t assume that this going to be a FIPs style intervention unless the Government has in the order of between £1- £2.4 billion to spend. On our sums the money being made available to local authorities so far through the early intervention grant and community budgets won’t add up to this.
While £2.2 billion (2011-12) and £2.3 billion (2012-13) of early intervention grant is being allocated to local authorities in England this must also fund universal programmes and activities available to all children, young people and families including children’s centres. There will also be the monies in Community Budgets but it’s not clear yet what the impact of these will be.
It would help if we had more definition of what the troubled in “troubled” families means. The defining characteristic when the PM spoke of them after the summer disturbances was that they are workless households and it seemed his ambition for them was to work but since then the Government have admitted that work may be an immediate reality for only a segment of these families.
There will also be families such as those which Family Action support who are in crisis with their self-esteem, relationships, and disability and poverty issues but do not present offending behaviour. Where are they in the mix of funding and policy?
From some reports it also seems that the redoubtable Louise Casey working to the DCLG is to be appointed as a “csar” for the families the Prime Minister has in mind. If her appointment is to go ahead her first job must be to bring clarity to the definition of “troubled” families and how much investment is available.
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