Early Help project changing lives in Middlesbrough

troubled families in a North-East town are having their lives transformed by a scheme which has saved more than £500,000 in its first seven months

troubled families in a North-East town are having their lives transformed by a scheme which has saved more than £500,000 in its first seven months

First published in News Darlington and Stockton Times: Photograph of the Author by

TROUBLED families are having their lives transformed by a scheme which has saved the taxpayer more than £500,000.

Across England £8bn is being spent targeting marginalised parents and their children from so called ‘troubled families’.

Through its Early Help project, Middlesbrough Council has engaged with 570 families which up until now have been a significant drain on its limited resources.

From August 2012 when it launched to March 2013 the authority says it saved £519,000 through successful interventions.

As a result the authority says it has seen a 78 per cent reduction in youth offending, a 69 per cent cut in anti-social behaviour and has prevented truancy across 85 familie, in addition to ensuring families secured jobs.

Local agencies involved in the project included the 0-19 service, local schools, youth offending service and social care.

A report called ‘Improving Outcomes for Children, Young People and Families’ to be discussed at the council’s Children and Learning Scrutiny Panel on August 27, states:

“Across Middlesbrough and the whole country there are families where prolific involvement with agencies such as the police, social services and youth offending service is the norm.

“The cost of these families to the public purse is significant with the vast majority spent on reacting to their problems, and importantly, most of the money being spent is not providing lasting results and changing lives.”

Targeted families often have a history of physical violence and sexual abuse, involvement in the care system, children with behavioural problems and crime.

The 2010 Indices of Multiple Deprivation ranked Middlesbrough as the eighth most deprived local authority area in England. In 2011, 60 per cent of schoolchildren lived in one of the 20 per cent most deprived areas in England.

A report published last year revealed that some of the town’s most vulnerable youngsters were at increasing risk of harm and poor health.

Produced by Middlesbrough Council’s Children and Learning scrutiny panel, it highlighted a number of concerns, including that one in five children who die as infants in the town would not have died if they had lived elsewhere.

At time Mayor Ray Mallon told members of the council's executive that one of the major problems that needed addressing was the aspirations in children. He said he wanted an independent assessment of the town's needs carried out by the independent think tank, the Centre for Social Justice.

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