Headlines: March 21st, 2007



More than 140,000 families are at risk of social exclusion and need more tailored support packages at critical moments, according to new Government figures that show they suffer five or more indicators of social exclusion. There will now be a review of the way various services deal with vulnerable families, which will include consultations with local authorities and the voluntary sector.

The indicators of exclusion may include people living a workless household, family income being 60 per cent below the median level, bad housing, a mother with mental health problems, a father entering or leaving prison, a teenage daughter becoming pregnant or parents with no qualifications. Revealing the figures to a meeting of health and social services workers at a conference in Brighton, Hilary Armstrong, the Cabinet Minister for Social Exclusion, said services needed to intervene at a vulnerable family’s critical moments.

‘We need to look again at the way services work with them – that looks at the family as a whole and that challenges their behaviour; and intervenes before problems become so entrenched that there is no turning back. We want families in need to get help at those critical moments. It makes sense for them and their communities, it can cost less, reduce crime and improve a child’s opportunities,” she said.

The Government, she said, had helped many families to lift themselves out of poverty but some had just not been able to take advantage of opportunities to do so. She rejected the view that personalisation went against opportunity for all. “Excluded families have more need for personalised services as their problems are complex, difficult and entrenched,” she said.

Research, she added, had shown that a single family could be dealing with a number of problems at the same time. The review would look at how well services aimed at families facing complex problems were working together on the ground and would challenge adults’ services to take a ‘whole families’ approach to delivering support.

The Brighton conference marked the beginning of a process which will see regional consultations in Leeds and Birmingham next week. Hilary Armstrong also plans to spend the next few weeks meeting frontline staff and stakeholders, including representatives of local Government, the voluntary sector and charities who work with families facing exclusion. The Families at Risk Review will then be published in the summer.