NEARLY 300 “chaotic and struggling” families across the county are now being targeted for a turn around.

The multi-agency Families First (FF) initiative is tackling issues from truancy to serious crime.

Herefordshire Council lead, FF is the county's response to the national troubled families programme launched by the government in 2010. 

So far, 286 families have been identified througth FF as in need of intervention with results ranging from adults finding work to children regularly attending school.

Now, studies are underway into the initiative’s impact on crime and anti-social behaviour.

Analysis of on-going interventions breaks the issues faced by the FF families down to percentages shared across the intervention criteria.

Those percentages are:

38%  - crime and anti-social behaviour.

42% -  school attendance criteria

28%  - out of work

43%  - domestic abuse

39% - mental health issues within the household

36% - have had a child assessed as in need.

35% - drug / alcohol misuse issues

26% - housing / homelessness issues

20% - children subject to child protection (CP) plans

The families were identified as known to agencies including the police, schools, GPs, children’s services, Jobcentre Plus, and social housing providers.

Rather than each organisation acting in isolation or just reacting to issues as they arise, FF brings each agency involved together to share appropriate information and co-ordinate support.

Many of the families identified had previously been overwhelmed with the number of services they came into contact with. FF offers each family a dedicated key worker as a single access to services.

Philippa Granthier, FF lead, said support can be anything “chaotic and struggling” families think they need to be able to improve, from organising a skip to help clear up the house, to learning parenting skills, to dealing with bills or organising health appointments. 

“There are always clear expectations on what the family must do to help themselves too and sometimes there will be the use of sanctions, such as parenting orders or acceptable behaviour contracts to make families engage with the support being offered,”  she said

Council’s  are paid up to £4,000 on a payment-by-results basis for turning troubled families round with the budget drawn from six Whitehall departments.

FF has attracted reward of £17,600 into the council with a target of attracting £240,000 over 2014/15.

Families First – Case Study

The family had been identified by agencies as at high risk of domestic abuse.

The aggressive behaviour shown by dad allowed the children to think it was acceptable for them to verbally and physically abuse mum. 

School life for the children has become became increasingly difficult with attendance reducing as a result.  Their behaviour eventually led to exclusions and police involvement.

In this environment, mum found it increasingly difficult to set effective boundaries for the children and was unable to keep them safe.

Through Families First, the family were supported by the council’s children’s wellbeing services backed by an action plan agreed between the family and their support worker.

With mum fully engaged in the process , the children’s school attendance has increased and the exclusions and offending have stopped.

Each member of the family received support dedicated to their own needs within the needs identified across the family unit.

Right now, the relationship between the family and the support worker is said to be “trusting but challenging”.

Mum says she never felt “judged by her support worker which allowed her the confidence to make the changes that were needed. 

The children say they simply feel “less angry.”