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Havering Council project is on target to help vulnerable families

PUBLISHED: 08:00 30 August 2013

Cllr Lesley Kelly

Cllr Lesley Kelly

Archant

A scheme to help vulnerable families in Havering is on track for success, says the council.

Factbox

*The Think Family project was set up in 2010 in response to a government initiative to help vulnerable families.

*It is due to run until 2015

*The project tackles issues of antisocial behaviour, youth crime and domestic violence

*400 families were initially identified

*Havering Council is working with 166 families so far

*involvement can be between six to 18 months.

*Work to combat domestic violence has included working with high risk offenders and adult and child victims

*Sxhool staff have been trained to engage more with families and reduce a consequence-based approach

*Apprenticeship and work experience placements are being developed to help get unemployed back into work.

The Think Family project was launched in 2010 to support those in the borough who the council identified as needing extra help.

And the authority said that, since its launch, it has achieved three of its four targets.

The project was a response to the government’s plan to work with vulnerable families and to tackle issues of antisocial behaviour, youth crime and domestic violence.

Council officers, social workers, schools and agencies joined forces to discuss issues at the start of the project and identified 400 families.

To date, they have worked with 166 families through the scheme, which they say is more efficient and economic than previous methods.

They receive payment by results from the government, meaning their performance is evaluated every quarter and money they receive is ploughed back into the project.

Cllr Lesley Kelly, the cabinet member responsible for the project, said: “I am delighted with the progress that this project has made.

“Working with vulnerable families and children is one of the most important things we can do and to see this project achieving such positive results can only be a good thing.”

The three targets achieved to date are to have improved outcomes for children in need, embedded a strategy of preventing problems – rather than merely reacting to them – and made better use of public resources.

However, the aim of intervening in families earlier, tackling smaller problems before they become bigger, has yet to be fully realised.

More concretely, the project has set up group conferencing, allowing families to discuss issues with social workers, and has also provided early help for vulnerable families from their local children’s centre.

New meetings

Cllr Kelly said the new meetings with social workers, tenancy officers and schools saved time and resources.

“We look at the issues and decide who is the best person to lead it,” she said. “It could be someone from the school or a housing officer.”

And by linking up with other agencies, they can identify all the issues, as they found that only fixing one did not help in the long term.

“It may be that the parents are unemployed and do not have a set routine,” she said. “They do not get up in the morning to get the children ready and this leads to them missing school.

“It could be that they have two or three children going to different schools and they need different equipment.

“Mornings can be challenging in most households anyway, but we can help with that and can hand back the control bit by bit.

“If we can get someone in to help them until the day when they are more in control, so that they can do the things that they need to, it might help. And someone from the school could come to collect the children and social services could go in to help.”

Cllr Kelly said the time needed to help each family varies from six months to 18 months depending on how many issues are identified, while some may need help over a longer period. She added that families would continue to be monitored after that period ends.

“We would scale it down greatly and monitor it afterwards and go in if the issues are still there, like if the children are continually missing school,” Cllr Kelly explained.

The scheme is due to run until 2015, but the council is looking at implementing the idea in the longer term.


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