The Family Focus

Phil Neal
Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Families are often the primary influence in the life of a child but what happens when this support network is dysfunctional or weighed down with the burden of a multitude of problems?

With the right support, not only will each individual struggling with issues get back on track, but the family unit will be strengthened as a whole. This is the fundamental aim of the government’s flagship Troubled Families programme. Authorities are currently preparing for phase two of the scheme, which will see support being provided to as many as 40,000 extra vulnerable families this year.

Tackling multiple problems

According to the Understanding Troubled Families report published in July, many of the families classed as “troubled” have an average of nine different serious problems.

Statistics from the study suggest that among the significant issues families face, such as truancy, youth crime, antisocial behaviour and unemployment, 71 per cent also struggle with health problems, 46 per cent have a mental health concern and 29 per cent experience domestic violence or abuse.

Whilst continuing the work being done to improve outcomes for troubled families, authorities that are eligible for the additional funding available in phase two will need to ensure effective measures are put in place to identify and address these issues.  

Completing the puzzle?

It is increasingly clear that the family-focused approach has become a blueprint for the way services for vulnerable children and families will be planned and delivered in the years ahead. Gone are the days when children’s services staff might have only intervened after a child had missed a week of school. The early intervention and prevention agenda has been a powerful driver for change. Authorities are now looking at the possible reasons behind issues like truancy or neglect within the family and flagging those deemed as “at risk” of vulnerability much sooner.

But the technology must keep up. IT systems are already evolving to enable authorities to automatically link individuals who make up a complicated family structure – regardless of whether they have different names or addresses. Authorities are increasingly looking at how their systems can help deliver a single view of a family too – which includes details of the support being provided and information on any family interventions – in one place.

Like fitting all the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle together, having the right pieces in place will provide a much more complete picture of need and help teams to monitor the impact of the support they provide. This will make it easier for teams to get demonstrable results from schemes such as the Troubled Families programme so that they have a lasting impact on each and every one of the lives they touch.

Phil Neal is managing director at Capita One

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