The report from the Social Exclusion Task Force sets out a vision for a local system that improves the life chances of some 140,000 UK families at risk and helps to break the cycle of disadvantage. It outlines the key characteristics of a system that ‘thinks family’ at all levels, from governance to the frontline, where staff will be empowered to innovate and cooperate in response to whole family situations.
The new approach empowers local services to always ‘think family’ and enable families to help themselves. This involves services working with both adults and children to take into account family circumstances and responsibilities. For example, an alcohol treatment service combines treatment with parenting classes while supervised childcare is provided for the children. Support will be tailored to need with family-centred packages offered to all families at risk. For example, a Family Intervention Project works with a family to agree a package of support best suited to their situation.
A key element is building on family strengths with practitioners working in partnerships with families and recognising and promoting resilience. The partnerships will help families to build their capabilities. For example, family group conferencing will be used to empower a family to negotiate their own solution to a problem.
To drive forward this new approach, local authorities and their partners are invited to apply to become one of the Pathfinders, which will run for 3 years from April 2008 and embed the ‘think family’ approach throughout local areas, from high-level strategy to frontline delivery.
The report is available from the Cabinet Office. http://www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/social_exclusion_task_force/families_at_risk.aspx