Problem families: Case worker intervention 'works'

Young people Louise Casey said a dedicated case worker was key to turning lives around

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A government scheme aimed at turning around the lives of the most troubled families in England is said to have produced "life-changing" results.

Early intervention by a dedicated case worker has reduced crime among those people involved by 45%, says the head of the troubled families programme, Louise Casey.

Anti-social behaviour has gone down by 59%, her latest report suggests.

But the Social Research Unit charity said the programme was not a "panacea".

The scheme aims to help 120,000 of the most troubled families by 2015.

It was announced a year ago, with central government funding of about £500m, and a further 60% of funding from councils.

Ms Casey published her report on Saturday, saying that cases of truancy, exclusion or bad behaviour at school were also cut by 52%.

She said that a case worker dedicated to the family was one of the key features identified as making the scheme effective.

Ms Casey told BBC Radio Five Live: "(We need) one worker for one family so they actually know who they're working with and what actually needs to change in that family.

"A worker that's honest and direct with them, so it's not faffing around. It's saying: right, kids do actually do have to go to school, I will be there at 7.30 until you get your kids up on you own and get them to school.

"[It's about] showing people that have got terrible backgrounds themselves of care and abuse, who have had no love and no proper parenting themselves.

"[It's about] teaching them to be parents and helping them bring their kids up properly," she added.

'Persistent challenge'

Considering the family as a whole, giving "practical 'hands on' support" and taking an "assertive" approach were also key.

So-called training academies for local authorities will be organised by the Department for Communities and Local Government next year, where best practice for intervention will be taught.

Start Quote

We think that it's positive but we don't necessarily think that it's a panacea”

End Quote Sonia Sodha, Social Research Unit charity

More than 40,000 families are expected to be helped in this financial year.

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said the report was a "crucial step towards building a wide campaign of support behind the work we are doing to break an inter-generational cycle of misery and failure".

But Sonia Sodha, from the Social Research Unit charity, said: "Any investment in families with multiple issues is to be welcomed, but we would urge a bit more caution on this.

"The government seems to see it as a panacea policy for troubled families. We think that it's positive but we don't necessarily think that it's a panacea."

Anne Longfield OBE, chief executive of the group 4Children which runs Sure Start children's centres , said: "Troubled families need to receive co-ordinated practical support, assistance and advice from services in order to help them solve their problems and get their lives back on track.

"By helping parents to find employment and get their children back into school, the impact will also be felt by wider society."

Dame Clare Tickell, chief executive of charity Action for Children which helps vulnerable young people, meanwhile, urged local councils to avoid providing support for families "on the cheap".

"You get out what you put in," she told the BBC News channel.

"We, and a number of other organisations, provide very high quality support and it really does make a difference," she said.

"It avoids children being taken into care and families spiralling into something that really is avoidable."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 180.

    It is a good investment with substantial positive return.

    Without the £500 million investment it would result in £ billions in negative costs to society due to lifelong obnoxious & criminal behaviours of these familys if left to own devices.

    I'd say, for benefit of ALL of us, another £500 million would be advantageous to UK society as a whole & also SAVE money long term

  • rate this

    Comment number 179.

    Don't want the state knocking on your door telling you how to raise your kids? Then raise them properly. I think this scheme is a great idea, and attacks crime at its source. If you can make a few bad kids change their ways then it will also rub off on their pals. Crime is already falling despite Labour claiming it would go up during austerity. Maybe the government are starting to get a grip.

  • rate this

    Comment number 178.

    I worked as a social worker in the 70s. We worked very closely with families for as long as it took. Certainly a couple of years if it was a large and very troublesome family. Casework was what the job was about and it was highly valued and very satisfying. It took a wrong turn in the 80s when it changed to working on just solving one immediate that a family raised and closing the case asap.

  • rate this

    Comment number 177.

    Such strategies ARE effective. I know from nearly 40 years working in education. In addition, they are cost-effective. The problem is that funding is time-limited and in times when 'cuts' are demanded are quickly terminated because they are not part of the mainstream services. There needs to be a commitment to put such services permanently in place for families in need from the child's birth.

  • rate this

    Comment number 176.

    I don't think anyone believes there is a cure for 'bad', but there is probably some mileage in saving the borderline?

  • Comment number 175.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 174.

    However people may feel about the parents, surely there can be no justification for, in effect, punishing the children? This seems like an admirable attempt to break the cycle.

  • rate this

    Comment number 173.

    @162 " OK that we top up bankers pay with tax payers money" bla bla bla...

    You're missing the point - the reason these families are persistent trouble-causes is not because they are poor. Being poor is the symptom. There are thousands of very poor families up and down the country (I used to be part of one of them), but not all use it as an excuse for criminality.

    And what about adoption?

  • rate this

    Comment number 172.

    In the words of Victor Meldrew - 'I don't believe it'.

  • Comment number 171.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 170.

    Finally, some good news in this wretched world. Hats off to all the unsung heroes behind the scenes, out of the spotlight, who make this happen on the ground, where it matters.

  • rate this

    Comment number 169.

    What kind of problem families are we talking about?

    Rupert Murdoch has serious problems with his family and Mrs Thatcher still has a great deal of trouble with her delinquent son Mark. And as for Mr Assad and his family. They seem to have gone completely off the rails?

  • Comment number 168.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 167.

    A few people say that the state should not interfere. I'm sure that the majority think that the state or local authority should be helping these families in a more direct way. And it seems that there is now evidence that this scheme is working.

    But I'd like hear from some of these families directly what they think.

  • rate this

    Comment number 166.

    In the past, my experience was that the local authority handwringers believed that putting these problem families in nice new homes, next to decent people, would solve the problem.
    Because we must understand, as I was told, they were all 'victims'.
    Result; a street full of misery
    Targetting the problem families is the only way ahead.

  • rate this

    Comment number 165.

    Rather than throw millions of our money at this so-called "problem", a bit of tough discipline at home and more importantly at school might knock the arrogance out of these individuals. This country is slowly but surely finished. Social workers are an expensive irrelevance.

  • rate this

    Comment number 164.

    policies have maxed social workers to 25-30 cases avg and stat targets only.

    support services destroyed, those few left dilluted to 6 week involvements

    removing children early almost impossible due to cost to LA due to govt policy

    The TF plan is already being vastly dilluted from the original pilot, caseloads of 15 touted, originally 2-3. more spin

    policy has made removal of

  • rate this

    Comment number 163.

    A better option would be to teach personal responsibity,NOT rights, in schools.
    Parents are undermined at every stage by the well meaning State interventions,teaching morals and personal independence at an early age sets you up for life.
    Parents, not state essential for that.
    Attempts to help problem families not helped by Social workers with predetermined ideas of what they think is "acceptable"

  • rate this

    Comment number 162.

    154. engineer-neil You talk about tax payers money, you think its OK that we top up bankers pay with tax payers money, allow MPs to steal from the public, allow Immigration to undercut low pay and reward tax dodgers with schemes to avoid paying their fair share. We have allowed the poor to be reliant on welfare instead of expecting MPs to do their job and deal with poor standards,

  • rate this

    Comment number 161.

    Front line support works, it's not news, and it's not a fix.


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