653 families ‘in trouble’

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THE number of troubled Wigan families seeking help has almost doubled in less than a year, shocking new figures reveal.

A massive 653 households have asked for and received help from the local authority to sort out often chaotic lifestyles dogged by abuse, truancy, long-term unemployment drugs and crime. Only last year that figure stood at just 375 families.

The figures were revealed as Louise Casey, director general of the Government’s Troubled Families Programme, visited the borough to see how this support scheme is helping to turn some of these folk’s lives around.

Sue Astbury, assistant director for early intervention at Wigan Council, said: “The Council has been able to utilise the Troubled Families funding locally to enable intensive and long term support to be provided for our families who are most in need of support to change.

“Particularly where crime, anti-social behaviour, long term unemployment and poor school attendance have been features of family life.

“Early learning indicates that this intervention also appears to be effective when supporting families to make changes where domestic abuse is a feature.”

Coun Susan Loudon, Wigan Council cabinet member for children and young people, said: “Our Confident Families programme is having a huge impact on the lives of those who need it most.

“I’m extremely proud of our achievements and would like to thank the team for their hard work in helping to turn around the lives of our troubled families.”

The Government, which has given Wigan Council extra cash to carry out the scheme over three years, defines troubled families as those that have problems and cause problems to the community around them, putting high costs on the public sector.

It has launched its scheme to work with local authorities and their partners to help 120,000 troubled families in England turn their lives around by 2015.

The main aim is to improve the life chances of children in these households but also bring down the cost to the taxpayer.

Getting adults from troubled families into long-term work, getting youngsters to attend school regularly, tackling youth crime and drug dependency are among issues high on the priority list.

Joining up local services and dealing with each family’s problems as a whole rather than responding to each problem, or person, separately is fundamental to the scheme.

A single key worker is appointed to get to grips with the family’s problems and work intensively with them to change their lives for the better for the long term.

And there is a mix of methods aimed at supporting families and challenging poor behaviour.

Government data collected in October and November 2011 estimated that £9bn is spent annually on troubled families – an average of £75,000 per family each year. Of this, some £8bn is spent reacting to the problems these families have and cause with just £1bn being spent on helping families to solve and prevent problems in the longer term.