Suffolk’s “troubled families” cost taxpayer �86m a year

MORE than 1,000 'troubled' Suffolk families are costing the county's authorities and social services �86m every year, a new report has revealed.

The cost is made up of responding to low-level crime and anti-social behaviour, tackling unemployment and truancy, and a range of other issues.

A new Children and Young People report – being sent to Suffolk Police Authority's meeting tomorrow – claims the 1,150 families cost the various agencies and services involved �75,000 a year each.

The author of the report, Assistant Chief Constable Charlie Hall, said: 'These are families who experience multiple problems and disadvantages, such as worklessness, truancy, drug and alcohol addiction, and also cause problems such as anti-social behaviour.

'New national analysis shows each family costs, on average, �75,000 per year to the whole system. In Suffolk, this equates to �86,250,000 per annum.'

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Late last year the Government launched its Troubled Families Initiative to help 120,000 of the most vulnerable and dysfunctional households in England.

The Prime Minister has said �448m will be made available to the Troubled Families Unit to turn around the lives of 120,000 families across the country over the next three years. This money will need to be match-funded by local areas and will cover about 40% of the overall cost.

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Based on guidance from the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), turning troubled families' lives around means getting adults into work, children into school, reducing crime and anti-social behaviour while cutting costs and saving money.

Suffolk's programme has now formed a steering group and appointed a project manager in April and workshops have already taken place.

Suffolk County Council is the lead partner in the project and Graham Newman, head of children, schools and young people's services, said it was about targeting the most disaffected families and helping them over a three-year period.

He said: 'This is what 'troubled families' is all about – it's not cutting off little bits of the problem, it's about looking at a family as a whole and seeing how we can get people back into work, their children attending school regularly – it's a sustained level of involvement.'

Although the work is in the early stages, new project manager Nicki Cooper, from Suffolk County Council, has been holding meetings with partner agencies including the police, borough and district councils and the Anglia Care Trust.

The programme, which has secured more than �900,000 of funding, will target 320 of Suffolk's troubled families – about a third of the county's total.

In the report, Mr Hall said initial analysis to identify families had already commenced.

He said: 'This will be a significant piece of work over the next few weeks as DCLG expect at least some of the families to be identified by the end of May.

'From a pragmatic perspective, the constabulary expects the identification of families/refinement of the list to be an ongoing piece of work.

'Work so far has identified children who meet the DCLG criteria on absence/exclusion in maintained schools. Further work will need to be done to secure and analyse such data for academies, and to cross-reference against crime and worklessness data. A cross trust data group has been set up and is meeting regularly.'

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