Family Action is a leading provider of home-based family support services for vulnerable and disadvantaged families. We have a strong track record of working successfully with many of the ‘troubled families’ that the Government is targeting.
Multiple, complex needs are associated with greater involvement of costly state interventions such as child protection, children in care, educational support and NHS mental health support. Many adults with enduring mental health difficulties and other chronic health conditions are also parents. If they reach crisis point the costs to them, their children, health and social services can be significant.
In 2006, the Government estimated that there were 120,000 families in England facing multiple challenges, experiencing disadvantage such as unemployment, poor housing, crime and antisocial behaviour. The estimated cost to the taxpayer of providing services to support these families is £9billion a year, of which £8billion is spent reacting to issues and £1billion in trying to tackle them. Government announced in 2010 a focus on supporting troubled families across the UK, and £448m was identified across government to fund the programme.
Troubled Families programmes support families with multiple and complex needs by:
- joining up local services
- dealing with each family’s problems as a whole rather than responding to each problem, or person, separately
- appointing a single key worker to get to grips with the family’s problems and work intensively with them to change their lives for the better for the long term
- using a mix of methods that support families and challenge poor behaviour
Family Action’s Family Support Services aim to strengthen families and communities, to build skills and resilience and to prevent family breakdown with children entering into care.
Our services improve outcomes for children and their parents by providing professional, home-based support designed to meet the needs of families with multiple, complex needs.
Our service works by:
- Starting with the family’s own perspective of the action they need to take
- Providing relationship support and activities for children and parents
- Providing targeted, time limited, short term interventions
- Ensuring a multi agency approach, led by qualified Family Support Workers
- Using the Family Star as the primary outcomes measurement tool.
Evaluation, Outcomes and Impact
We know our intensive family support services really work. A Family Support Evaluation analysis* showed that Family Action’s Family Support Services have resulted in:
- A 53% reduction in providing a Care Programme Approach
- A 46% reduction in Child Protection Plans
- A 30% reduction in children entering Local Authority Care
- A 48% reduction in providing a Common Assessment Framework Team Around the Child – Single Agency
- A 33% reduction in providing a Common Assessment Team Around the Child – Multi-Agency
- A 46% reduction in registered Children in Need.
*Building Bridges Evaluation 2011
Family Action’s services demonstrate immediate, cost effective improvements in key outcome areas, with evidence of the impact of intensive Family Support on children and families.
Influencing and Shaping Policy
Family Action is an experienced provider of intensive Family Support, and has presented to Governments Public Accounts Committee about our experience of delivering support to Troubled Families, as well as sharing best practice and knowledge with public and voluntary sector peers at national conferences.
Key areas we have identified through our intensive Family Support work include:
- The criteria for the inclusion of families should be changed. Many Local Authorities have recognised that domestic abuse, mental health or parenting capacity are important factors in making a difference to these families and have included these as local criteria. We know that for the families we work with these are big issues – over half of families in our Newham service are affected by domestic abuse and 75% in Birmingham have mental health issues.
- The Troubled Families programme should cater for different levels of need, with step up and step down services. Our services differ in length; for example Birmingham is 3-6 months, Newham is 6-9 months, Lincolnshire is 1 year plus. We have seen in Newham and Bexley that families achieve better outcomes when there is follow up support. Also not all families are at the violent extreme; there is a spectrum and we need a flexible service to reflect this.
- The Family Star outcomes tool can measure the progress made against national outcomes and other important factors related to parenting capacity. In our experience the journey towards improved outcomes is just as important as the end result, and can save money for tax payers in the long term (e.g. better parenting means it is less likely that the children will have the same problems as their parents). The average family star for the Newham service showed that over 6 months they moved from ‘stuck’ to ‘trying to change’ – but had not yet completely succeeded.
In order for Local Authorities to fulfil their duties to children and families, Family Action firmly believe that targeted, skilled, intensive Family Support Services are a vital component of any local service portfolio.