Councils should assign troubled families “one assertive family worker” who can offer “practical help and support but also sanction”, according to a key government adviser.
Louise Casey, director general of the government’s troubled families programme, has suggested a “whole-family approach” to families with multiple problems will be more effective than dealing with single problems or single individuals.
The two conclusions are contained in a graphic record of interviews with sixteen families involved in family intervention projects. The report’s “early” conclusions suggest Ms Casey would like to see more councils adopt the project’s approach.
The intervention projects were first pioneered in Dundee in the 1990s and were adopted by the Labour government’s anti-social behaviour unit, itself once led by Ms Casey.
In the report published on Wednesday, she describes the projects as providing “intensive, practical support to whole families” via “a dedicated social worker”. In language which echoes that of her recommendation for a single family worker, she says the projects use “a combination of support and sanction” as well as “persistence and assertiveness” in their work with the families”.
Although the report is at pains to “not seek to make wholesale conclusions about services”, she does suggest there is a “need for one assertive family worker who offers practical help and support but also sanctions in dealing with families”.
The report also concluded the “starkest message” from the interviews was “the extent to which the problems if these families are linked and reinforcing”, meaning that services for individual family members or individual problems were “most often destined to fail”. Instead, a “whole-family approach” was needed.
The report continued: “These families are not beyond help or hope. Indeed, the majority of the families detailed here have already made huge leaps forward…[and] that is testimony to the skill determination and tenacity of the family intervention workers and others supporting these families.
“The next part of the challenge will be to understand more about how the success with families is achieved and then to seek to widen this approach to a far larger group of families”.
Councils are expected to design their own interventions rather than expect instruction from the department. However Ms Casey has previously set out certain expectations such as the appointment of troubled families coordinators as senior managers.
As previously reported by LGC, at least one council has signed up to the project but does not intend to work with the ‘troubled families’ as defined by the department once it has received the up front payments.