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Westminster details 'community budget prototype' savings

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Westminster City Council’s groundbreaking Family Recovery Programme has saved the public purse an average of £41,000 per problem-family it has dealt with, the authority has revealed.

The programme, which is considered as a model for the coalition government’s just-announced community budgets, has so far seen just over 100 problem families given intensive help over the past two years.

This week, the authority said evidence from the first 50 of those families showed incidents of antisocial behaviour reported by neighbours dropping by almost half and an 83% drop in the number of  offences families involved were suspected of committing.

The council said it calculated that every pound spent on the programme generated £2.10 in savings, spread across the public sector as a whole.

Domestic violence incidents and housing problems also declined by more than 60%, while school attendance among children of the families involved increased in some four out of five cases.

The programme brings together police, health, social services and benefits professionals to take a whole-family approach to the problems of the city’s most troubled families, with the promise of sanctions if improvement plans are not adhered to.

Daniel Astaire (Con), cabinet member for society, families and adult services, said the programme was both cost-effective and morally correct.

He said: “Not only do we believe that this is a much more effective and efficient way of tackling the root causes of these families’ problems and therefore effecting real change, but it has also been proven to save enormous sums of money by avoiding the costs which would have been associated with these families if they had continued in the same pattern of behaviour.

“Our ultimate aim is enable these families to stand on their own two feet.”

Strategic director for children’s services Michael O’Connor said the authority had offered the programme as a model to professor Eileen Munro for her review of child protection, and that the creation of community budgets – announced as part of the Spending Review – offered a “huge step forward” for the programme.

However, the council said that while its calculations showed the council to be the biggest beneficiary of the savings the programme generated, that less than half of the avoided costs affected council spending.

It said that out of every £1 in avoided costs, 42p related to council costs, 13p to Department for Work and Pensions spending, 4p to Home Office costs, 6p to NHS costs, and 7p each to registered social landlords and the Ministry of Justice expenditure.

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