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Council scheme for families gets multi-million pound backing

The Government has backed a scheme to help Staffordshire families with £5 million in funding. It means that Staffordshire County Council and partners can support families in need of help before their problems reach crisis point.

Mark Sutton, Staffordshire County Council’s Cabinet member for Children and Young People, said: “This money will help us make a real difference to lives of parents, children and their wider families.

“For a long time, Staffordshire has been at the forefront of working jointly with other organisations to help families with complex needs. In the past we’ve been paid by results for our work in this area, but after years of successful intervention, we’ve been awarded £5 million up front to allow us to develop our work further.”

The Building Resilient Families and Communities (BRFC) programme has been expanded to deal with a wider range of problems including domestic violence, debt, poor health and where children are at risk of being taken into care.Initially, it targeted families to help parents in to work, or children back to school and to reduce involvement in criminal and anti-social behaviour.

More than 3,500 families have been helped so far by the BRFC scheme in Staffordshire. Calculated savings to taxpayers include spending £1 million less on the consequences of domestic violence, £600,000 less in joblessness benefits and £400,000 less spent on dealing with anti-social behaviour. The new funding approach in Staffordshire is just one of 11 similar schemes in England to be backed by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

The council-led initiative is a joint approach with Staffordshire Police, district and borough councils, housing associations, voluntary groups and health bodies and others.Not only does the programme provide support from professionals, but also uses help from the voluntary sector and communities where appropriate.

Mark Sutton said that coordinated approach, and a focus on the whole family rather than the individual members of a family, was key to the scheme’s success.

He said: “Some large families have up to 20 different people visiting because they have many children and complex needs. Not only is that fragmented, but it’s expensive too.

“We’re using a single key worker to liaise with all the agencies and develop a coordinated approach which is more effective at tackling the root causes of issues such as problem debt and parental conflict.”

Mother-of-three Ann and her partner Peter*, of Stafford, were helped by the BRFC programme after a change in benefits left the family-of-five facing eviction over unpaid rent. Although money was expected to pay the rent, the family were facing a court eviction hearing before it was due to arrive.

Mark Sutton said: “Rather than see children and their parents evicted over a technicality and have to deal with that problem urgently, several different services combined to raise the issue and have the payment hurried up so the family could keep a roof over its head and the children could carry on attending school without interruption.”

NB: *Names have been changed.

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