£25m to foil trouble families

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Lancashire County Council could spend nearly £25m to tackle more than 2,000 anti-social families who wreak havoc in the county.

The authority is set to receive £8.8m – up to £4,000 per problem household – from a £78m Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) cash pot towards tackling 2,630 problem households in Lancashire.

The funding is supposed to help councils tackle families involved in crime or anti-social behaviour, truancy or exclusion from school, and those claiming out-of-work benefits.

But the cost of intervening with each family is around £10,000 – meaning the cash-strapped council has to find 60% – or £6,000 – itself to tackle each household.

It will have to spend around £16m of its own money if it intervenes with all the homes earmarked as a “problem”.

Yesterday the authority was not able to confirm where that cash would come from.

Council bosses remained tight lipped about the finer details of the scheme, but other councils involved have argued it will save the taxpayer millions in dealing with the problem families through other means.

Lancashire is among 10 areas with the largest number of troubled families which have signed-up to the Government’s payment-by-results scheme.

A brief statement from Helen Denton, the County Council’s executive director for children and young people, read: “We are working closely with the Troubled Families Unit so we can combine the requirements of the scheme with our own new Children and Young People’s Trust programme, Working Together with Families. We enthusiastic about working with the Troubled Families Unit to make a positive difference to the family life and futures of children and young people in Lancashire.”

The nine other council areas involved explained their reasons for taking part, with some arguing they can work more “cost-effectively with partners” such as the health service and police, and with individual families, to help those with the complex needs and reduce the long term pressure on social services and partner agencies.

They said it will ultimately mean less of the public’s money is used on tackling the problems the families cause.

Each authority will have the discretion to choose which households meet the criteria for support.

Preston MP Mark Hendrick said he was concerned about where the rest of the funding for the project would come from.

The Labour MP said: “The scheme in principal is a very good idea but (the government) should put their money where their mouth is.

“They give with one hand and take away with the other.”

Gordon Wang of Ingol Community Association in Preston added he was worried other council services would have funding trimmed to meet the cost of the pilot project.

He said: “If they are going to do something, they need to do it properly.

“Successes have got to be sustainable and not just look good on a manifesto.”

The scheme will deliver cash to local authorities which get children back into school, reduce youth crime and anti-social behaviour, and put adults on a path back to work.

It aims to bring down the £9bn annual costs nationally caused by dealing with them, such as policing and hospital costs, social services costs and care costs for children, among others.

Lancashire stands to gain a potential £8.7m in funding if it achieves all of its targets in the next three years.