Headlines: May 7th, 2008

Vulnerable children and families often have to cope with multiple challenges which do not fit the structures of children’s and adult services. In a move to focus action on those in need and bring a joined-up response, a ‘Family Pathfinder’ programme has been launched.

Children from the most vulnerable families are five times more likely to struggle with reading and writing, eight times more likely to be suspended, and ten times more likely to get into trouble with the law.

The Programme will involve 15 local areas where disadvantaged families will be offered intensive help and support designed to develop understanding of how best integrated service provision can meet the families need. Each of the areas has successfully bid to lead the way in testing and developing a ground-breaking ‘think family’ approach to help their most vulnerable families.

The ‘Think Family’ approach has been developed by the Cabinet Office’s Social Exclusion Task Force. It aims to ensure that adult and children’s services join up to respond to the needs of whole families. The approach builds on the learning from effective whole family support packages such as Family Intervention Projects. Around 140,000 families in Britain experience 5 or more multiple and complex problems such as worklessness, poor mental health or substance misuse.

Six of the Family Pathfinders will also receive additional funding to deliver services for families with young carers. The aim is to help ensure that children in these families do not have to take on inappropriate caring roles.The 2001 Census indicated there were some 150,000 young carers across England and Wales. Most are aged between 12 and 14 and provide between 1 and 19 hours of care per week but a significant minority, some 16 per cent, were caring for between 20 and 50 hours or more per week.