Agenda item

Supporting Troubled Families

            To receive a presentation from Mr Tony McGovern, Extended Services Partnership Manager, on the Supporting Troubled Families initiative.


The Panel welcomed Mr. Tony McGovern, Extended Services Partnership Manager, who attended the meeting to give an update on the Supporting Troubled Families Programme.


Mr. McGovern updated on the national programme, advising that back in 2011 troubled families in Hampshire had been costing the Government in the region of £119 million. A Troubled Families Unit had been established, which took a whole family approach, through information sharing and devising individual family plans. Some funding was available when the process started and the remaining funding was available once a robust support system was in place.


Families had to meet certain criteria to be part of Phase 1 of the Supporting Troubled Families Programme. These included being involved in youth crime and/or anti-social behaviour, having children not in school or an adult in the family that was out of work and on benefits, at least two of these needed to be met to be included in the programme. During Phase 1, all targets had been met allowing all funding to be achieved. As a result, in 2015 Hampshire had been asked to join Phase 2 of the project ahead of most of the country.


It was advised that Rushmoor had joined with Hart in 2014 to establish a local approach to the Programme. A structure had been established, led by Qamer Yasin, Head of Environmental Health and Housing, and Phil Turner, Head of Housing Services at Hart District Council. Quarterly meetings were held of the Local Co-ordination Group, to which all partners were invited. The meetings were held to agree working principles, share information and ensure all partners were responsible for the work being undertaken. In addition, weekly “early help hubs” had been established; these meetings were attended by all partners/agencies and helped to identify families suitable for the programme. Once families had signed up to the programme, monthly case conference meetings were held, when appropriate, to determine the way forward.


Mr. McGovern gave a summary of Phase 1, consisting of 70 families engaged in the Supporting Troubled Families Programme; 53 had shown measurable progress achieving the full £800 funding per family from the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG). Overall, the Council had achieved slightly better results than the county average and continued to make good progress. Benefits included continued savings for Hampshire County Council (HCC), better working practices, increased confidence in whole family working, increased co-operation and co-ordination and a greater range of agencies helping each other and focusing on the same issues.


It was noted that the criteria for Phase 2 had been made broader, allowing more families to become eligible to be part of the Supporting Troubled Families Programme. The new criteria included mental health issues, alcohol and substance abuse and domestic violence.  As a result, the number of families involved in year one of Phase 2 matched the number in total of Phase 1. It was noted that the co-location of HCC’s Children and Adult Services, and the Police to the Council Offices had been a huge benefit to the project.


The Panel was shown maps that pinpointed where families were situated across the Borough. Phase 1 had seen a concentration in Cherrywood and Aldershot Park but, for Phase 2, families had been much wider spread across the Borough.


It was advised that an amount of money was available to support families with small problems that could easily be resolved, these were usually small amounts that could remove barriers, such as £5 for a passport photo for a job application or out of school diversion activities. In addition, funding of £30,000 had been made available to projects managed by agencies/partners that supported families.


The Panel then discussed two case studies. The first relating to a single mother with two children who hadn’t been attending pre-school; with the right help the children were now regularly attending pre-school and the mother was studying for an Open University qualification and was now able to help herself. The second study was more challenging, it related to a single mother with six children aged between 11 and 22 years. She had a difficult relationship with authority and a number of the children had ASB’s and reprimands on file. The mother was now on side and the youngest child, who had been out of school for a year, had had his educational needs assessed and things were slowly improving. Work would continue with the family. Mr. McGovern advised that the “tough love” approach was sometimes needed to deal with families that were hard to engage with for instance “if you don’t do this, you could lose your home”.


In conclusion, the Supporting Troubled Families Programme had made a real difference locally. It had made positive impacts on many families with significant problems and allowed a focus on issues that mattered locally. The programme was a good example of partnership working and had had four successful years so far. The aim would now be to drive it forward to the next level.


The Panel discussed the Nepalese community and the fact that there were none engaged in the Supporting Troubled Families Programme, it was felt that the Nepali community hid certain problems and it was advised that domestic violence was the most prevalent issue within their community. A meaningful way to engage with the Nepali community needed to be established. A discussion was also held around those families that did not want to engage with the programme. It was advised that some families were not ready to engage and there was nothing to be done in those cases. Nevertheless, it was important for families to understand that the door was never closed.


In response to a question, it was advised that Members were not made aware of cases within their wards due to confidentiality arrangements. Members could refer families via Mr. McGovern who would be happy to pass on the information to the relevant agency/partner.


The Chairman thanked Mr. McGovern for his presentation.