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£2M FOR TROUBLED FAMILIES

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Funding worth£2m over two years was announced today to support projects that bring together health, housing and so...
Funding worth£2m over two years was announced today to support projects that bring together health, housing and social work professionals with the aim of targeting help on troubled families to 'break the cycle' of antisocial behaviour.

Justice minister Cathy Jamieson said the projects would provide intensive supervision and intervention for individuals and families involved in antisocial behaviour.

As well as bringing together services, those families referred to the projects will be set strict targets for behavioural improvements and be subject to sanctions if the targets were not achieved.

The projects will run in three local authority areas - South Lanarkshire, Falkirk, and Perth and Kinross - and aim to learn from the Dundee Families Project, run by the children's charity NCH Scotland in partnership with Dundee City Councilm which has earned an international reputation for its work in providing intensive 'wrap around' care for families housed in a core block of flats.

On a visit to the Dundee Families Project, Ms Jamieson said:

'A small number of families are responsible for most, and usually the most serious, antisocial behaviour in each community. Their behaviour has a disproportionate affect on the community in which they live. Dealing with their problems therefore helps not just those families - but the families who live next door, on the same stair, in the same street.

'Many of those involved in antisocial behaviour have multiple and complex economic and social problems - and that it is only by addressing those problems that we'll get longer term solutions for communities.

'I accept that historically there has been an over-emphasis on supporting 'difficult' families - and insufficient attention given to supervision and ultimate sanctions if support and supervision are rejected. What this has meant is that the rights of individuals in the family have taken precedence over the rights of the community.

'The Dundee Families Project (DFP) shifted that balance with strict criteria for entry into the programme, strict rules once families are in the programme, and clear sanctions if families refuse to engage with the programme. I am keen to see whether this model can be adapted in different ways while maintaining success rates. That is why we are funding variations in a further three local authority areas.

'These projects will run for the next two years - but their success will be lasting. I want other local authorities to consider whether there are lessons from these projects that could be adopted for dealing with antisocial behaviour in their areas. By bringing all relevant partners together, we can make a real difference to turning around lives and creating a safer, stronger Scotland.'

Carol, a single mother with three children, is one of those who has benefited from the DFP. She said:

'The help I got from the Dundee Families Project has saved my life. For the first time I felt somebody was interested in me and I almost handed over my life to them.

'They encouraged me to attend groups at the project and they offered advice and support in dealing with children, school, housing and neighbours. I have more confidence now to deal with my problems and have made friends with people I met at the project. There are still a lot of things going on in my life but the difference now is that I believe I can cope. The project has made me believe in myself. Where I would be without them, I dread to think.'

Alice Bovill, who lives close to the DFP, said:

'Even the people who opposed it at the start are totally in favour of it now. It seems to give people confidence to take control of their lives and to look after their children in a much better way. It has made such a difference to so many families that I'm not surprised other areas want to copy it.

'The project has also been a very good neighbour. I have not heard of one complaint about the project. They have certainly gained the respect of people living around about them.'

The funding is taken from a pot of£130 million that has been available to tackle antisocial behaviour from 2004-05 to 2007-08.

Perth and Kinross

A flexible, dispersed service to bridge the gap between those ASB families and mainline services. Focus on those who have been made homeless due to ASB as well as addressing issues that vulnerable families have in sustaining tenancies.

Falkirk

Working with people in existing homes to help families integrate better into their community, but recognise may be some very limited cases where necessary to move them out of their home. There will be a peripatetic team of community based staff included social work and housing and the possibility of building on existing work with Aberlour Child Care Trust.

South Lanarkshire

Working with people in their own home to provide support to prevent homelessness.

It was a requirement of funding that councils accept support from an external specialist organisation, which will provide 'best practice' guidance and management support.

NCH Scotland have been awarded the contract after a tendering process to be the managing agent for each of the projects which we expect to be up and running by the summer. They will run for two years. It is expected that each project will deal with between six to 12 families a year.

Funding is provided through accountable grants, with detailed conditions. Councils must set out clear and measurable outcomes, both for the families themselves and the wider community, with specific milestones along the way. Councils are also required to put in place mechanisms to share the findings of the demonstration project with mainstream service providers and to report back on how the findings of the project will influence the provision of mainstream services. Funding is entirely dependent upon meeting specific milestones.

The success of the Dundee Families Project has been atrributed to the criteria for entry, the strict supervision provided and the clear sanctions imposed if families breach the agreement for participating in the programme. For example no alcohol is allowed in flats in the core block; no visitors are allowed who are not authorised by the programme staff; eviction is used as a last resort.

All schemes supported by the Executive must have similar criteria and sanctions, including the use of measures in the Act, such as parenting orders and ASBOs where appropriate.

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