Our ‘troubled families’ set to get help

SENIOR officers say Hartlepool is up to the challenge of meeting targets to turn around the lives of “troubled families”.

Hartlepool has been identified as having 290 troubled families, with 242 eligible for help under a new Government scheme which will see £440m pumped in nationally.

Over the next three years the aim is to turn around the lives of 120,000 families.

Council officers say the targets are a challenge but say staff will endeavour to meet them.

Members of Hartlepool Borough Council’s cabinet committee discussed the scheme, which will see families that sign up given action plans, a case worker, and more targeted partnership work across agencies.

The aim is to transform lives and reduce the long-term financial burden on services.

The government has allocated £75,000 of funding per year for the next three years towards running the scheme.

Dave Stubbs, the director of regeneration and neighbourhoods, said: “I’m not sure that the government desire to do everything in three years is possible but the council officers and partners will endeavour to do that.”

He added: “What is fairly innovative in this is the Department for Work Pensions are releasing details to us where as in the past this was always a difficulty.

“You can see that partnership work is being done.”

Troubled families are households who:

l Are involved in crime and anti-social behaviour;

l Have children not in school;

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

Local authorities can also target families with looked-after children, prolific offenders, substance misuse or if there is a history of domestic violence.

Independent councillor Cath Hill said she was disappointed the £75,000 was not being used to bring in a dedicated Troubled Families co-ordinator to oversee the programme.

Instead the funding will be put into the general pot for the scheme and officers will meet in July to discuss how best to use it.

Coun Hill raised concerns that current assistant directors, who will oversee the scheme, are already stretched and said it was important the work was effectively monitored.

Coun Hill added: “The quality of staff is crucial.

“It is really important that they are sensitive to the problems of the families but that they are robust and not fobbed off.

“This maybe the last chance for some of these families.”

Mayor Stuart Drummond said: “This is one of the schemes where size will be an advantage.

“Everybody knows everybody.”

A third of the troubled families 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.

Estimates show that intensive work is expected to cost £10,000 per family and Hartlepool would be allocated £4,000 per family.

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