Cameron announces £450m plan to tackle troubled families

15 Dec 11
Prime Minister David Cameron announced today that the government will spend almost £450m in a bid to turn around the lives of 120,000 problem families in England.

By Richard Johnstone | 15 December 2011

Prime Minister David Cameron announced today that the government will spend almost £450m in a bid to turn around the lives of 120,000 problem families in England.

Local authorities will play a major role in the new cross-government drive but they will need to more than match the cash.

As a first step, the Department for Communities and Local Government has published an estimate of the number of problem families in each council area.

Councils must identify the households by February and then take action to meet four goals, which include getting children back to school and reducing crime and antisocial behaviour.

Cameron said the government would offer up to 40% of the cost of this, but on a payment-by-results basis, which will include getting the families’ parents back into work andreducing the costs to the taxpayer and local authorities.

The plan also includes the creation of a national network of Troubled Family ‘troubleshooters’, who will be appointed by local councils.

These family workers will be a single point of contact for families, working out their needs as a whole for the first time and providing the right state services, Cameron said.

‘When the front door opens and the worker goes in, they will see the family as a whole and get a plan of action together, agreed with the family.’

Cameron warned that the ‘immense task’ of improving the lives of these families would require ‘new ways of thinking, committed local action, flexibility and perseverance’.

The government said that these families cost the taxpayer an estimated £9bn each year, equivalent to £75,000 per family. This is mainly spent on protecting the children and police responses to crime and antisocial behaviour.

Communities and Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles added: ‘120,000 families are a big problem for this country. If you live near one, you know very well who they are. And local services like police, health and schools also know who they are, because they spend a disproportionate amount of time and money dealing with them.

‘These families are both troubled and causing trouble. We want to get to the bottom of their problems and resolve them – for their own good, and for the good of their communities.’

The Local Government Association welcomed news that the funding would go to the local level.

Chair Sir Merrick Cockell said: ‘It is great news that the money announced today will go to local areas to build on much excellent work already under way. We must ensure this support gets to where it is most needed and is not tied up in endless bureaucracy and form filling.’

He also welcomed the government’s recognition of the need for Whitehall departments to work much more closely with councils at a local level.

This is the aim of the government’s existing Community Budget pilots, which work across the public sector to help families with multiple needs.

Cockell added: ‘This is vital to help us overcome historic hurdles which have stood in the way of the huge savings and greater local accountability this co-ordinated approach can deliver.’

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