Child protection concerns in some of England’s most excluded and antisocial families has been halved following a pilot scheme, the Department for Children, Schools and Families said today.
Publishing research on family intervention projects (FIPs), the DCSF said domestic violence, substance misuse and antisocial behaviour had also been significantly reduced among families involved in the programme.
The projects were launched in 53 areas in 2006 and 2007 to target the 1,500 most “challenging” families in the country. Families were given a dedicated key worker from social services or housing as well as access to specialist residential units in an attempt to tackle the root cause of their behaviour.
The evaluation, conducted by the National Centre for Social Research, found that of 885 families referred to FIPs from February to October 2007, 69% were headed by a lone parent, 61% received out-of-work benefits and a quarter were in debt.
Typically, projects worked with families in their own homes from six to 12 months.
The evaluation found that the proportion of families with child protection issues had fallen from 21% on joining an FIP to 10% on leaving the scheme, though there was only a small decrease in the number of children on the child protection register.
Domestic violence levels had fallen from 26% to 8%, substance misuse from 34% to 16%, poor parenting from 60% to 32% and educational problems, such as truancy, among five to 15-year-olds from 37% to 21%.
The number of families behaving antisocially fell from 92% to 35%, while enforcement action, including police cautions and fixed penalty notices, was halved.
Families previously deemed a lost cause
Children and families minister Beverley Hughes said: “Families previously deemed as a lost cause by services are being offered the challenge, support and incentives to become decent members of their communities and give their children a real chance in life.”
Clare Tickell, chief executive of children’s charity NCH, which has pioneered this kind of intervention, said: “It is essential the extension of this model is replicated across the country to address the needs of the hardest to reach and the most vulnerable if we want to truly break long term cycles of antisocial behaviour.”