Help on hand for ‘troubled families’

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THE lives of hundreds of “troubled families” in Hartlepool could be turned around thanks to a new initiative.

The Government programme will see £440m pumped into a national scheme over the next three years with the aim of transforming the lives of 120,000 families.

Hartlepool has been identified as having 290 “troubled families” with 242 eligible for help under the scheme.

A third will be targeted in 2012-13, and over the course of three years, Hartlepool could be in line for funding worth almost £1m, depending on results.

Intensive work is expected to cost £10,000 per family and Hartlepool would be allocated £4,000 per family.

Troubled families are households who:

• Are involved in crime and anti-social behaviour;

• Have children not in school;

• Have an adult on out of work benefits or cause high costs to the public purse.

Local authorities will be able to show discretion and can also target families with looked-after children, prolific offenders, substance misuse or if there is a history of domestic violence.

Under the scheme families that sign up would be given action plans and more targeted partnership work across agencies.

The first few dozen families will be treated as pilot families and the programme then evaluated.

The new community budgets give local authorities new freedom to pool resources aimed at breaking down bureaucracy and finding better ways to work together to tackle “troubled families”.

Prime Minister David Cameron first announced the Troubled Families programme in December last year.

Members of Hartlepool’s shadow health and well-being board, which brings together the NHS, local authority and health watchdogs, met recently to discuss how the town will benefit.

Board members heard that growing up in a family with “significant” social, health, economic and behavioural problems has a long-lasting impact on a child.

Officers planned to identify the families by end of April and work with the first 30 will begin this month.

They say it is about “working smarter”.

Denise Ogden, the council’s assistant director of neighbourhood services, gave a presentation to the shadow health and wellbeing board.

Mrs Ogden, said it was vital to support families to change their behaviour, added: “Some of the parents and grandparents have never been in work.

“It is what they have always known and they do not have any aspirations to change.

“We know by giving intensive support we can turn around lives.”

Turning troubled families around means getting children back into school, getting parents on to a work programme which will mean the families are less of a burden on the taxpayer.

Mrs Ogden added: “This is quite difficult but could make a huge difference.

“We are all committed and signed up to it.”

Officers stressed at the meeting that identified families will not be forced to sign up.

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