System reform: “Think family” to help vulnerable parents and children
Cabinet minister Ed Miliband and Children,Young People & Families’ minister Beverley Hughes have launched a new approach to local services, drawing together nine government departments – with the aim of improving support for the most disadvantaged families and prevent problems passing down from parents – including those with substance problems – to their children.
The Think Family report, published by the Social Exclusion Task Force in the Cabinet Office, will ensure that adult services support whole families not just individuals. It signals a £16million programme of local pilots, to be led by the Department for Children, Schools & Families.
“The primary responsibility for a family’s success or failure will always lie with parents, but government can make a difference,” said Miliband. “There should be no ‘wrong door’ to help for families. When vulnerable parents turn to local services, they should receive support that recognises the needs of the whole family. If we’re going to break the cycle of intergenerational exclusion, we must empower local services to always ‘think family’ and enable families to help themselves.”
Local services are urged to adopt the following basic principles:
- No wrong door – contact with any service offers an open door into a system of joined-up support, eg a probation officer or housing officer identifies the adult language difficulties of a client and refers them to English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) training
- Look at the whole family – services working with both adults and children take into account family circumstances and responsibilities, eg an alcohol treatment service combines treatment with parenting classes while supervised childcare is provided for the children
- Provide support tailored to need – tailored and family-centred packages of support are offered to all families at risk, eg a Family Intervention Project works with a family to agree a package of support best suited to their situation
- Build on family strengths – practitioners work in partnerships with families recognising and promoting resilience and helping then to build their capabilities, eg. family group conferencing is used to empower a family to negotiate their own solution to a problem
“By working with both adults’ and children’s services, problems can be dealt with before they become entrenched, leading to better lives now and in the future,” said Hughes. “Building more effective preventative support around the family will help ensure that young people in families affected by illness, disability or substance misuse do not fall into burdensome caring roles.”
Click here for the full Think Family: Improving the life chances of families at risk report
Local authorities and their partners are invited to apply to become one of the Pathfinders, which will run for 3 years from April 2008 and embed the ‘think family’ approach throughout local areas – from high-level strategy to frontline delivery. The work will be linked into the LGA/DCSF Narrowing the Gap network of local authorities to ensure that learning and insights are spread within other local areas.