Minister outlines launch of new ‘whole family’ initiative

    The government will push a new “whole family” approach to social exclusion this year, the outgoing cabinet minister for the issue has told Community Care.

    A public service agreement will be launched later this year to tie all relevant government departments into tackling social exclusion through considering families as a whole rather than just the individual members, said Cabinet Office minister Hilary Armstrong (pictured).

    Her comments come as a Cabinet Office review out this week finds that performance incentives to support whole families are weak.

    Armstrong, a former social worker, said a whole families philosophy was one of her main legacies in almost 14 months as the first cabinet minister for social exclusion, alongside a focus on using early intervention to help the most disadvantaged, for instance through the nurse family partnership programme.

    This programme, which is being piloted in 10 areas, involves providing health-led intensive services for excluded families with children from pre-birth to age two.

    However, Armstrong could not confirm whether the cabinet-level social exclusion post would continue under Gordon Brown’s premiership, though she added: “Whatever the structures, the ideas and principles will be carried forward and that’s the important thing.”

    She said Brown had asked her to do some work on social exclusion from the backbenches.

    Armstrong said she was stepping down to make room for younger colleagues as her experience as the chief whip had showed they were often overlooked for government roles.

    Social Exclusion Agenda
    The government’s social exclusion action plan, published last September, promised action to help those left behind by 10 years of labour, including:

    * The nurse family partnership programme – a health-led service, being piloted in 10 areas, to provide intensive support to excluded families with children from pre-birth to age two, based on a current US scheme

    * Support for adults with multiple disadvantages, such as addictions, mental illness and homelessness, who fall between agencies. The government this week announced £6 million in funding for pilots on supporting this group.

    Further information
    Social exclusion

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     Mithran Samuel

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