Headlines: December 16th, 2011

Plans to radically transform the lives of the country’s most troubled families move community budgets into the mainstream. They mark a move away from traditional thinking with silo approaches to service delivery and put multi-agency working to the forefront.

The Government will offer up to 40 per cent of the cost of dealing with these families to councils, but on a payment-by-results basis when they and their partners achieve success with families. For the first time, the Government has outlined the headline goals and how success will be measured with the following criteria: children back into school; reduce their criminal and anti-social behaviour; parents on the road back to work, and reduce costs.

New figures show that troubled families cost the tax payer an estimated £9 billion per year, equivalent to £75,000 per family. This is spent on protecting the children in these families and responding to the crime and anti-social behaviour. The costs are exemplified by the fact that children who live in troubled families are 36 times more likely to be excluded from school and six times more likely to have been in care or to have contact with the police.

The first pilot community budgets schemes for families with complex needs were launched in April 2011 and in June 2011 plans to extend the schemes were announced. There are further plans to extend community budgets beyond families with complex needs.

Community budgets provide a single pot of money that the 20 or so local agencies involved with a family can draw on. The budgets allow the agencies to adopt a team approach to responding to the difficulties of the families and so avoid duplication and overlap.

The Total Place pilot projects launched in 2009 identified the issue of families with complex needs and demonstrated that a multi-agency approach could transform lives and cut costs. Much successful work followed on from the pilots and the new plans will build on this work in different areas of the country.

This concerted national push from the Government to give community budgets a renewed impetus and higher profile is set to change the way in which public services are delivered.