More help for at-risk families

By Emmeline Saunders

Education minister Ed Balls has announced plans to help reduce poor parenting, debt and domestic violence for at-risk families.

The National Family Intervention Strategy Group will bring together support to help reduce costs for children’s and families’ services under Family Intervention Projects (FIPs).

FIPs, which were introduced last April, are specialist interventions which target families who are in danger of being evicted, getting into debt and becoming involved in anti-social behaviour and youth crime.

To date, 173 projects have supported more than 2,400 families, and aim to reduce poor school attendance and behavioural problems.

Every local authority is planning to set up a FIP, and many have been asked to match the funding the government has put in, after an additional 26 million of funding was put forward for 2010/11.

The strategy group will identify opportunities to improve value for money for the intervention projects and help disseminate good practice from FIPs.

Mr Balls also announced an end to government intervention in two local authorities’ children’s services.

Bradford and Hackney will submit succession plans to highlight improvements needed to the quality of their education and services.

Mr Balls, speaking at the National Children and Adult Services conference in Harrogate, said: “I don’t want there to be formal intervention in any local authority for any longer than is absolutely necessary and it will always be a last resort.

“One of the ways that local authorities can help make this happen is by stepping up to the plate and driving improvement from within the sector.”

He said he will always respond quickly to improve services where there is evidence that a local authority is failing to deliver acceptable children’s services, but recognises government intervention should be stopped when sustained improvement has been brought in by strong leadership.

He added: “Where we do step in, I don’t want us to be involved for any longer than we need to be. That’s why I’m pleased that following the improvement in Bradford and Hackney and I am minded to end our involvement there as soon as I am convinced that the necessary support is in place to ensure that progress will continue.”