Social services: Family first for a long-term fix

Joy Shakespeare - programme leader for Families First
Joy Shakespeare - programme leader for Families First

Social services staff say they are on track with work to turn around the lives of ‘troubled families’ despite only an 8% success rate at the half-way stage of a government programme.

Councils are being paid up to £4,000 for each ‘troubled family’ they are able to help with intensive, targeted support in aspects such as unemployment, anti-social behaviour and youth crime before 2015.

Less than 10% of the identified families in Bucks have been ‘turned around’ in 18 months compared to Oxfordshire which has turned around more than 54% of its families.

But programme lead for Bucks, Joy Shakespeare, said: “What we have done is taken a rather different approach.

“We are going for systemic change rather than putting a quick fix in place and in hoping to make a long term change, it is taking a little longer.

“But we are not worried about that at all. We don’t want to do it fast. We want to do it right.”

Authorities have met with 62,000 families in England – more than half of the total number identified – and in Bucks, 426 of the 545 have already been worked with.

Each family is estimated to cost taxpayers £75,000 a year.

Ms Shakespeare said: “We are addressing all the issues in a family-first approach and we’ve seen some really great outcomes.

“We want to involve the health services, the police, housing, the schools.

“It was important to find something that fits for Bucks and fits for the future.”

The £448 million programme was introduced by David Cameron in 2011 as a response to riots across the country.

Head of the Troubled Families scheme Louise Casey said: “This programme is getting to grips with families who for too long have been allowed to be caught up in a cycle of despair.”